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LIFE AND LETTERS 

OF 

SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

VOLUME I 




WILFRID LAURIER 

At twenty-eight 



LIFE AND LETTERS 

OF 

SIR WILFRID LAURIER 



BY 
OSCAR DOUGLAS SKELTON 



ILLUSTRATED WITH 
PHOTOGRAPHS 



VOLUME I 



S. B. GUNDY 

OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS 

TORONTO 

1921 





, / 



Copyright, 1921, by 
THE CENTURY Co. 



J^RAS 

3 1 




S79073 






TO 
MY MOTHER 



PEEFAOE 

Some time before his death, Sir Wilfrid Laurier 
placed in my hands all his papers, covering the period 
to the close of his term of office. After his death, Lady 
Laurier gave access to the later papers. These papers 
included all the documents of public interest which he 
had accumulated, with the exception of a few boxes of 
letters lost in the burning of the Parliament Buildings 
during the war. 

It will be noted that few letters have been reprinted 
in the early as compared with the late years of Sir Wil- 
frid's life. There is a striking difference, in the char- 
acter of the correspondence of the middle and of the 
last years. During his years of office, when business 
pressed and when men came across a continent at a 
prime minister's nod, the letters, though abundant, are 
nearly always brief and rarely of general interest. In 
the years of comparative leisure, when a leader in op- 
position had to go to men, or write them, and partic- 
ularly when emotions were stirred, the letters are longer 
and freer. Sir Wilfrid's caution and his remarkable 
memory lessened the extent to which he committed him- 
self on paper. He never wrote a letter when he could 
hold a conversation, and he never filed a document when 
he could store the fact in his memory: fortunately, his 
secretaries saw to the filing. So far as is known, he 
never wrote a line in a diary in his life. He was not 
given to introspection ; he lived in his day's work. 

The writer is deeply indebted to friends of Sir Wil- 
frid and of his own who have read these pages in proof. 



PREFACE 

They are given to the public with the hope that they may 
provide his countrymen with the material for a fuller 
understanding of one who was not only a moving orator, 
a skilled parliamentarian, a courageous party leader, 
and a faithful servant of his country, but who was the 
finest and simplest gentleman, the noblest and most un- 
selfish man, it has ever been my good fortune to know. 

O. D. SKELTON. 
Kingston, Canada, 
October, 1921. 




I 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAGK 

I THE MAKING OF A CANADIAN . .. ,., ... ,., ,., . 3 

II THE POLITICAL SCENE . . ... .. ,., ,., ,., ,., . 45 

III FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT . . ..... 105 

IV THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION . ... ,. 157 
V UNDER A NEW LEADER . . . 218 

VI RAIL AND KIEL .... . . . ,. . . . 260 

VII LEADER OF THE LIBERAL PARTY . . ,. ,., . . 332 

VIII MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 350 

IX THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION ... ,. 424 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

Wilfrid Laurier Frontispiece 



l-AOINO 
PAGE 



Carolus Laurier 20 

River Achigan and St. Lin 28 

The Village School, St. Lin * ... 32 

L'Assomption College 32 

Wilfrid Laurier 40 

Mile. Zoe Lafontaine 48 

A Street in L'Assomption 64 

The Hills of Arthabaska 64 

Louis Joseph Papineau 80 

Cardinal Taschereau 128 

Bishop Bourget 128 

Bishop Lafleche 128* 

Alexander Mackenzie 160 

Edward Blake 224 

Four Quebec Leaders 240 

Builders of the Canadian Pacific 272 

Wilfrid Laurier 336 

Sir John A. Macdonald 416 

Four Conservative Prime Ministers . 464 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR 
WILFRID LAURIER 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR 
WILFRID LAURIER 

CHAPTER I 

THE MAKING OF A CANADIAN 

The Peopling of New France An Outpost of the Faith A Sol- 
dier of France The Laurier Stock The Habitant New France 
and British Policy Charles Laurier, Inventor Carolus and Mar- 
celle Lauirer Birth of Wilfrid Laurier Boyhood in St. Lin 
An English Schooling L'Assomption College Student at Law 
Early Partnerships The Eastern Townships A Happy Mar- 
riage. 

WILFRID LAURIER was born at St. Lin, 
a little village on the Laurentian plain 
north of Montreal, on November 20, 1841. 
Exactly two hundred years earlier his first Canadian 
ancestor had fared forth from Normandy, a member of 
the little band of pioneers who had undertaken to plant 
an outpost of France and the Faith on the Iroquois- 
harried island of Montreal. For eight generations his 
forefathers took their part in the unending task of sub- 
duing the Laurentian wilderness. Striking deep roots 
in Canadian soil, shaping and shaped by the new ways 
and new interests of the colony, they worked, like thou- 
sands of their compatriots, for the most part in obscurity 
and silence. Then at last the sound and sturdy stock 

3 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRED LAURIER 

found expression. We cannot understand Wilfrid 
Laurier, his character, temperament, viewpoint, his 
problems, limitations, achievements, unless we bear in 
mind those two centuries of life and work in the Canada 
which had become his kinsmen's only home. 

France had entered late into the race for overseas pos- 
sessions. The wars of religion, entanglements in Eu- 
rope, court intrigues, had occupied the whole interest of 
her rulers. When at last, in the seventeenth century, 
with a measure of unity attained at home, France had 
brief leisure to dream of New- World empire, there 
seemed little place left in the sun. Spaniards and Por- 
tuguese, English and Dutch, were staking out the lands 
of sun and gold. French adventurers found a footing 
in India and Florida and Brazil, but for the most part 
they followed the track of Breton fishermen to the fogs 
and furs of the St. Lawrence. In 1608, a year after 
the London Company had founded, in the marshes of 
Jamestown, the first enduring English settlement in the 
South, Champlain founded, on the rock of Quebec, the 
first enduring French settlement in the North. For all 
Champlain's courage and persistence, it grew but slowly. 
The weary and perilous voyage in crude and comfortless 
craft barred all but the most courageous or the most de- 
spairing. There was no gold to lure. The fur-trade 
was monopolized by the trading companies to which in 
turn kingly favour inclined. It was a task of years to 
clear an opening in the dense forests, and the little settle- 
ment planted in a vast fertile continent was long de- 
pendent for food and stores on the yearly ships from 

4 



THE MAKING OF A CANADIAN 

France. The Iroquois lurked at the gate. Winter and 
scurvy and brandy played havoc with men who would 
not learn the country's ways. If New France was to 
become more than a fur-trader's post, some other power 
was needed to drive or draw men forth. 

That power was religion. In the English settlements 
to the south, it was religion more than any other factor 
that impelled men to leave the land of their birth and 
seek homes overseas. Men who could not find in Eng- 
land freedom to worship as their conscience dictated, or 
power to make others worship as they themselves pleased 
-Puritans, Quakers, Roman Catholics, and, in Long 
Parliament days, Episcopalians formed the backbone 
of the settlements on the Atlantic coast, and gave the 
young colonies their fateful bias toward self-govern- 
ment. 

In New France it was not the discontent of a religious 
minority that sent men and women overseas. This solu- 
tion of France's colonizing problem had been definitely 
rejected. France, like England, had its dissenters: 
there were in Europe no more resolute or enterprising 
men, no better stuff for the building of a new state, than 
the Huguenots. But they were not allowed to find an 
outlet in America, under the flag of France. For years 
advisers of the court, lay and cleric, urged that New 
France should be saved from the evil of a divided faith 
which had brought old France to the verge of ruin, and 
that the simplest way to avoid conflict was to bar the 
Huguenot. Insistent pressure and the flaring out again 
of Huguenot revolt, brought Richelieu to yield, and in 

5 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

the charter granted the Hundred Associates trading 
company, in 1627, all Huguenots and foreigners were 
forbidden to enter the colony. The discontented minor- 
ity who might have emigrated to New France and who 
eventually were exiled from France to build up her 
rivals, were not allowed to grapple with the task. The 
contented majority for whom the colony was reserved 
had little wish to go. 

Yet in another way than in the English colonies re- 
ligion was destined to provide the impelling force. 
There were among the Catholics of France men and 
women of burning zeal, who felt a call to bring the 
Indians to Christ. While English settlers with their 
families were flocking to New England and Virginia, 
seeking to better themselves both here and hereafter, in 
New France martyr priests and devoted nuns were fac- 
ing endless perils and privations in the hope of winning 
savage souls. There are no more glorious pages in 
the annals of missions than those which record the 
womanly tenderness and practical efficiency of Jeanne 
Mance and Marguerite Bourgeoys and Mere Marie de 
Tlncarnation, or the devotion of Franciscan and Jesuit 
fathers, Le Caron and Dablon, Lalemant and Brebeuf , 
Le Jeune and Masse and Jogues, following the shifting, 
shiftless Montagnais through filth and famine, labour- 
ing patient years in the great Huron villages of what is 
now western Ontario, or braving the Iroquois in their 
innermost strongholds, only too often crowning a life 
of service by martyrdom under the scalping-knife or at 
the stake. 

6 



THE MAKING OF A CANADIAN 

The reports or Relations in which each year the 
Jesuits recorded their efforts, fired the imagination of 
pious men and women throughout France. Not least 
they stirred one extraordinary group of men and women, 
in whom mystic piety, hard-headed grasp of practical 
affairs and unquestioning courage were strangely 
mingled, to a resolve to plant the Cross far toward the 
heart of the new land. Jerome le Royer de la Dauver- 
siere, tax-gatherer of Anjou; Jean Jacques Olier, Paris 
abbe and later founder of the Order of St. Sulpice; 
Pierre Chevrier, Baron de Fancamp ; Mme. de Bullion, 
as pious as she was rich; Mile. Jeanne Mance, honoured 
of all Canadian nurses who have followed in her foot- 
steps, and Paul de Chomedy, Sieur de Maisonneuve, 
Christian gentleman, whose simple faith had withstood 
contact with soldiers and with heretics, were only the 
more notable of the associates who thus came together 
to found the Society of Our Lady of Montreal. Their 
aim was to found a mission outpost on the island of 
Montreal, which lay at the junction of the two great 
Indian waterways, the St. Lawrence and the Ottawa, 
and was famed through all North America as a rendez- 
vous. Here priests were to minister to the spiritual 
needs of such savages as could be made to halt and heed ; 
nursing sisters were to care for the sick and the aged, 
and teaching sisters to instruct the young. Funds were 
raised, a grant of the island secured, soldier colonists se- 
lected, and three small vessels equipped. In the sum- 
mer of 1641 the expedition reached Quebec. Here 
they found little backing for their rash venture. Gov- 

T 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

ernor and Jesuit sought to dissuade them from inevi- 
table and useless sacrifice; it was unwise to scatter 
forces when the whole white population of Canada was 
less than three hundred; the island of Montreal was 
straight in the track of the Iroquois hordes who every 
year swept up the St. Lawrence and the Ottawa in their 
relentless hunting of men. But Maisonneuve insisted 
that to Montreal he would go "if every tree on the island 
were to be changed to an Iroquois," and in the following 
spring the undaunted little band took possession. 

Among the soldier colonists who followed Maison- 
neuve there was found Wilfrid Laurier's first known 
Canadian ancestor. * Augustin Hebert was a native of 
the Norman town of Caen, the birthplace of William the 
Conqueror. Four years after his coming he married a 
girl of twenty, Adrienne Du Vivier, daughter of An- 
toine Du Vivier and Catherine Journe, originally from 
Carbony, in the province of Laon. Four children were 
born to them, Paule, Jeanne, Leger, and Ignace. 
Paule, who died in infancy, was sponsored by M. de 
Maisonneuve and Mile. Mance. In August, 1651, Au- 
gustin Hebert died of wounds received in an engage- 
ment with the Iroquois. Three years later his widow 

i List of the first colonists of Montreal, as given by M. l'Abb6 Verreau, 
in "Trans. Royal Society of Canada," 1882, p. 99: 

1642: May to August 

1. M. de Maisonneuve 8. Jean Robelin 

2. Le Pere Poncet 9. Augustin Hubert 

3. M. de Puiseau 10. Antoin Damiens 

4. Mile. Mance 11. Jean Caillot 

5. Mme. de la Peltrie 12. Pierre Laimery 

6. Mile. Catheiin Barr6 13. Nicolas Code and family 

7. Jean Gorry 

8 



THE MAKING OF A CANADIAN 

married Robert Le Cavelier. M. de Maisonneuve 
granted them forty arpents of land near the fort, on 
condition that the land might be resumed if needed for 
building, that Adrienne Du Vivier renounced her dowry 
and her rights in the estate of her first husband, and that 
they would undertake to bring up the three surviving 
children of Hebert until they attained their twelfth 
year. J 

The vision of Indians flocking peaceably from all the 
St. Lawrence valley to hear the gospel message faded 
before the stern reality of Iroquois attack. The Five 
Nations had vowed to destroy the whole French colony, 
and particularly the outpost at Montreal. They were 
then at the height of their power. An unusual capacity 
for political organization, a shrewd mastery of diplo- 
macy, a grasp of military strategy, a persistence as rare 
among Indians as their ruthlessness was common, and, 
not least, ample stores of firearms sold by recklessly 
profiteering Dutch traders from New Netherlands made 
the Iroquois the most formidable of all Indian peoples, 
unquestioned lords from Maine to the Mississippi and 
from Hudson Bay to Tennessee. Hurons, Neutrals, 
Eries, Andastes, in turn were exterminated. Only their 
French foes withstood them. For twenty-seven years 
(1640-67) the war continued, with only two brief 
breathing spells. Now great bands of warriors attacked 
in force ; now single braves lurked for days in ambush to 
catch a Frenchman unawares. The builders of this 
New Jerusalem, as of the Jerusalem of old, worked in 

iL'Abb6 Dejordy: La Famille Hubert-Lambert, p. 1. 

9 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

the fields with their weapons by their side. "Not a 
month of this summer passed," a chronicler recorded, 
"but the book of the dead was marked in letters of red 
by the hand of the Iroquois." Maisonneuve and his 
comrades fought hard, worked hard, prayed hard, and 
against all chance the little colony survived. Rarely 
had they strength to take the offensive. One breathing 
spell came when in 1660 Adam Dollard and his immortal 
sixteen young comrades, all but two in their twenties, 
after making their wills, their peace with their Maker, 
and their last farewells, struck up the Ottawa to meet 
the oncoming Iroquois, and at the Rapids of the Long 
Sault, Canada's more glorious Thermopylae, fought for 
eight days and nights against seven hundred frantic foes, 
until arms, water, strength but never courage failed, and 
one by one the little band had fallen by musket or toma- 
hawk or at the stake. 

Exploits such as Bollard's checked the Iroquois, but 
only a great accession of force to the colonists could 
subdue them. Fortunately help was at hand. The 
rulers of France had at last both the will and the power 
to aid. The young king, Louis XIV, and his great 
minister, Colbert, were for the moment keenly alive to 
the possibilities of colonial strength. The Hundred 
Associates, the trading company which for a generation 
had misruled New France, lost its charter, and in 1663 
the colony came virtually under the king's direct control. 
Jean Talon, intendant or business manager of the 
colony, came out to play Colbert's part on the smaller 
stage. Soldiers and settlers streamed in for a decade, 

10 






THE MAKING OF A CANADIAN 

and the Marquis de Tracy, at the head of large French 
and Canadian forces, laid waste the Iroquois country 
and brought peace for a score of years. 

One of the soldiers in Tracy's crack f orce,the regiment 
of Carignan-Salieres, raised by the Prince de Carignan 
in Savoy, tried and hardened in campaigns against the 
Turk, and brought to Canada under Sieur de Salieres, 
was Francois Cottineau, dit Champlaurier, the first of 
the Laurier name in Canada. Francois Cottineau was 
born in 1641 at St.-Cloud, near Rochefoucauld, in what 
was then the province of Angoumois and is now the de- 
partment of Charente, son, as the records say, of Jean 
Cottineau, vine-grower, and Jeanne Dupuy. In that 
day, when family names were still in the making, doubt- 
less some ancestral field of lauriers or oleanders had 
given a sept of the Cottineaus the additional surname 
which in time was to become their only one. 

The coming of Talon and Tracy assured the perma- 
nence of the colony. The little settlement on the is- 
land of Montreal shared in the brief outburst of vigour 
and support. Its religious purpose was not forgotten. 
Priests of the Order of St. Sulpice took spiritual charge 
and temporal lordship of the island, not without a bitter 
feud with the Jesuits which did not soon die. Mile. 
Mance still gave to the Hotel Dieu her skill and judg- 
ment, and Marguerite Bourgeoys continued the work of 
teaching which the Congregation de Notre Dame has 
carried on to this day. But gradually the advantages of 
the island port for trade, and the rich farming possibili- 
ties of the volcanic island soil, led to growth in other 

11 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

directions which soon overshadowed the original activi- 
ties of the associates of Our Lady of Montreal. Mon- 
treal, like all New France, had ceased to be merely a fur- 
traders' counter and a missionaries' base of operations; 
it had become for all time a land of settlers and of homes. 
For a few brief years the State took unwonted care to 
stimulate the growth of New France. Officers and men 
of the Carignan-Salieres regiment were induced to set- 
tle, Roman-wise, on the imperilled borders, though it is 
to be feared that more of them turned coureurs de bois, 
roaming far in the Western wilderness, than remained to 
till the soil of the Richelieu seigniories. Ship after ship 
of settlers came, and thrifty efforts were made to save 
the men of France for cannon fodder in Europe by 
encouraging early marriage in the colony itself. Hun- 
dreds of girls were brought from the old land, and mar- 
ried out of hand to soldier and settler. The quick to 
wed were rewarded and the tardy punished. The State 
provided dowries of money or supplies, while in antici- 
pation of Honore Mercier, Louis XIV offered a pen- 
sion of three hundred livres to all Canadians who had ten 
children living and four hundred for families of twelve 
girls who had entered any religious order not being 
counted. Fathers were fined if their sons were not mar- 
ried at twenty or their daughters at sixteen, and mar- 
riageable bachelors were forbidden to set out hunting 
unless they undertook to marry within a fortnight of the 
arrival of the next matrimonial ship from France. 1 Not 

i Colbert summed up the policy succinctly in a despatch to Talon in 1668: 

"I beg you to commend it to the consideration of the whole people that 

their well-being, their subsistence, and all that most nearly concerns them, 

12 



THE MAKING OF A CANADIAN 

even a Colbert could ensure that such drastic and pater- 
nal interference would be permanent, but pressure of 
Church and State and frontier conditions long made 
marriage at an early age a feature of New France. 

This rapid marrying and the steady pushing back of 
the frontier which went with it, are brought out clearly 
in the annals of the Hebert and the Cottineau-Laurier 
families. Thanks to the care with which the parish 
registers were kept by the church authorities, and the 
tireless industry with which historians from Abbe Tan- 
guay to M. Massicotte have delved into the records, and 
thanks also to the fact that immigration from France 
ceased early, making it possible to trace all the present 
families to the early stocks, we can follow the branching 
of these, as of countless other families of New France, 
without a break through the generations. 

Jeanne Hebert, the only surviving daughter of Au- 
gustin Hebert and Adrienne Du Vivier, was married in 
Montreal in 1660, to Jacques Millot, son of Gabriel 
Millot and Julienne Phelippot; the bride was in her 
fourteenth year, but the husband, doubtless a newcomer, 
in his twenty-eighth. They did not quite earn the 

depend on a general resolution, never to be broken, to marry youths at 
eighteen or nineteen years, and girls at fourteen or fifteen; in countries 
where everybody labors, and in Canada in particular, there is food for 
all, and abundance can never come to them except through abundance 
of men. ... It would be well to double the taxes and duties of bachelors 
who do not marry at that age . . . and as regards those who seem to 
have utterly forsworn marriage it would be expedient to increase their 
taxes, to deprive them of all honors and even to attach to them some 
mark of infamy. . . . Even though the kingdom of France be as populous 
as any country in the world, it is certain that it would be difficult to 
maintain large armies and at the same time to send great numbers of 
settlers to distant lands. ... It is then . . . chiefly to increase from mar- 
riage that we must look for the growth of the colony." 

13 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

King's pension, for though they had ten children, not 
more than seven were living at one time. It was the 
eldest of these ten children, Madeleine Millot, who in 
1677 in her fifteenth year, was married to the soldier of 
Carignan-Salieres, Fra^ois Cottineau, dit Champ- 
laurier, then approaching thirty-six. 

Marriages in those days might be made early, but they 
were not contracted lightly. The marriage contract of 
Fran9ois Cottineau and Madeleine Millot, which is still 
preserved, reveals with what a multitude of witnesses- 
kinsmen, neighbours, old regimental officers the sol- 
emn undertaking was made, and with what thrifty 
and cautious care the future family finances were de- 
tailed and guarded. 1 

When the eldest of the four children of Fra^ois Cot- 
tineau-Laurier, fittingly named Jean Baptiste, was 
married at twenty-six to Catherine Lamoureux, a girl 
of sixteen, youngest but one of a family of eleven, it was 
not at Montreal but at St. Fra^ois in He Jesus, to the 
northeastward, that the marriage was performed. That 
even Colbert could not mould the people to his will is 
made clear by the fact that the two daughters of Fran- 
9ois Cottineau-Laurier did not marry until one was 
twenty-nine and the other was twenty-four. Jean 
Baptiste made his home at Lachenaie, across the river 
from St. Fran9ois, but at first in the same parish. Here 
his quiverful of children were born Jean Baptiste, 
Marie Catherine, Marie, Agathe, Jacques, Rose, 
Therese, Joseph, Pierre, Marie Anne, and Veronique. 

i See Appendix I. 

14 



THE MAKING OF A CANADIAN 

Here it was, in 1742, that Jacques, his second son, at 
twenty-six, married Agathe Rochon, aged twenty-one, 
and here for three generations more the family took root. 

In every parish from Tadoussac to Montreal the same 
story of early and fruitful marriage and of steady widen- 
ing of the bounds of settlement is to be told. All along 
the St. Lawrence and the Richelieu the habitants were 
clearing their deep narrow holdings, winning an acre 
or two a year from the dense forest. Facing the river- 
road, the steep-roofed whitewashed houses of logs or 
field stone, a furlong apart, soon gave the river bank 
the air of an unending village street. Fur-trader and 
explorer, missionary and soldier, ventured far into the 
unknown West; while the English colonists were still 
clinging to the coast or breaking through the Appa- 
lachian barrier, the sons of New France were blazing 
trails from Texas to Hudson Bay and from the Atlan- 
tic to the foothills of the Rockies. Yet the great bulk 
of the population remained in the St. Lawrence valley, 
and in that community farming more and more became 
the mainstay. 

Farming methods were crude, but the soil was rich 
and the habitant hard-working. Save in a rare famine 
year, he had in his fields abundance of wheat and oats, 
of corn and rye and the indispensable peas, and of fish 
and game and wild fruits in the river and forest at his 
door. Home-brewed ale and, later, home-grown and 
home-cured tabac canadien helped to pass the long win- 
ter nights. Every household was self-sufficient and self- 
contained, The habitant picked up something of many 

15 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

a trade, and developed a versatility which marks his 
descendants to this day. From the iron-tipped wooden 
plough, the wooden harrow and shovel and rake, to the 
spinning-wheel that stood beside the great open fire- 
place, the many-colored rug, the homespun linens and 
etoffe du pays, the wooden dishes, the deerskin moccasin, 
the knitted tasselled toque and the gay sash, all were his 
own and his family's handiwork. 

The habitant had found comfort. He had not yet 
found full freedom, though the independent strain in 
his blood and the democracy of the frontier ensured him 
much greater liberty than is usually recognized, and 
there was always the safety-valve of escape to the law- 
less life of the coureur de bois. In the wider affairs 
of the colony he had little voice. King and governor 
and intendant made his laws, with some slight aid from 
a nominated council; yet his taxes were light, and if he 
did not make the laws, neither did they greatly circum- 
scribe his daily life. The seigneur counted for more 
in his eyes than the king, but had only a shadow of 
the authority wielded by feudal lords in France: the 
farmer proudly insisted that he was habitant, not censi- 
taire. The Church came closest. The missionary aims 
of the founders of the colony, the unwearied devotion 
of the Church's servants, the outstanding ability of some 
of its servants, notably Bishop Laval America's first 
prohibitionist and the barring of heretics, gave the 
Church sweeping and for a time unquestioned and un- 
grudged authority. After Colbert came to office, and 
throughout the French regime, the State increasingly 

16 



THE MAKING OF A CANADIAN 

asserted its power, controlling the Church in matters of 
tithes, the founding of new orders or communities, ap- 
peals from ecclesiastical courts, and many issues of 
policy, but the Church remained the dominant social 
influence in the colony. 

Already New France had taken on a life and colour of 
its own. Governors and merchants and soldiers might 
come and go, but the ways of the colony were little 
changed. The striking and significant feature of these 
later years is the cessation of contact with France 
through immigration. The outburst of colonizing 
energy under Colbert proved brief. Louis XIV and 
Louis XV were seeking glory on European battle-fields, 
and could spare no men for the wilderness. Daring 
projects of American empire were staked out, but the 
men needed to hold and develop the vast arc from Mon- 
treal to New Orleans did not come. In the seventy 
years up to 1680 the colony had received at most three 
thousand immigrants from France ; in the eighty years 
that followed, an incredibly small number came a 
number which a distinguished authority, M. Benjamin 
Suite, has put as low as one thousand all told. 
Through all this period France had more than twice the 
population of the British Isles, but did not send one 
settler to the New World for the twenty that Britain and 
Ireland urged and forced to go. In forty years half 
the Presbyterian population of Ulster sought refuge in 
the American colonies from British industrial and re- 
ligious oppression; German, Dutch, Swiss settlers 
poured in during the eighteenth century by tens of thou- 

17 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

sands. The numbers of Ulstermen and of Germans 
coming to the English colonies in a single year exceeded 
the number of French settlers who crossed the Atlantic 
in the century and a half from the beginning to the end 
of the French regime. Of the four or five hundred 
thousand Huguenots exiled from France more came 
to the English colonies than Catholic France could spare 
for her own New- World plantations, and the names of 
Bowdoin, Faneuil, Revere, Bayard, Jay, Maury, 
Marion, and many another bear witness of their quality. 
For all the rapid multiplying of the original stock in 
New France, it continued to be outnumbered by the 
English colonies twenty to one. 

For New France this cessation of new settlement and 
the limitation of growth to the natural increase of popu- 
lation, meant isolation and the development of a distinc- 
tive, homogeneous community. With each year that 
passed the men of New France knew less of any country 
other than the land of their birth. For old France it 
meant defeat in the struggle for colonial empire, defeat 
which might be postponed by the bravery and resource 
of individual leaders, by the firm military organization 
of the people of New France, and by the disunion of the 
English colonies, but which could not be averted. 

The French regime came to an end a century and a 
half after Champlain had raised the flag of France on 
the rock of Quebec. The new rulers were faced at once 
by the most serious difficulty that had yet beset any 
colonizing power. Here were nearly eighty thousand 
Frenchmen and Catholics, firmly rooted in the soil, with 

18 



THE MAKING OF A CANADIAN 

ways of life and thought fixed by generations of tradi- 
tion. What was to be the attitude of their English and 
Protestant rulers ? On the answer to that question hung 
the future of Canada, and the answer, or rather the 
answers, that were given shaped the problems and the 
tasks that in after days faced Wilfrid Laurier and his 
contemporaries and that in changing forms will face the 
Canadians of to-morrow. 

The solution first adopted was what might have been 
expected in a time when the right of self-determination 
had not even become a paper phrase. It was simply to 
turn New France into another New England, to swamp 
the old inhabitants by immigration from the colonies to 
the south and to make over their laws, land tenure, and 
religion on English models. No little progress had been 
made in this attempt when the shadow of the American 
Revolution and the sympathy of soldier governors for 
the old autocratic regime and for the French-Canadian 
people about them brought a fateful change in 
policy. British statesmen determined to build up on the 
St. Lawrence a bulwark against democracy and a base 
of operations against the Southern colonies in case of 
war, by confirming the habitant in his laws, the seigneur 
in his dues, the priest in his authority. To keep the 
colony British, the government now sought to prevent it 
becoming English. The Quebec Act, the "sacred 
charter" of French-speaking Canada, embodied this new 
policy. A measure of success followed. Then the un- 
expected result of the American Revolution in exiling 
to the St. Lawrence and the St. John tens of thousands 

19 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

of English-speaking settlers made it impossible to keep 
Canada wholly French, and the hatred for democracy 
and for all things French which developed during the 
wars with Napoleon made Englishmen unwilling to let 
French-speaking Canada rule itself. 

The lesson which the statesmen in control in Britain 
learned from the two revolutions, the American and the 
French, was not the need of making terms with democ- 
racy, but the need of nipping democracy in the bud. 
Elective assemblies were conceded the people of Lower 
or French-speaking Canada, and Upper Canada, the 
newer English-speaking settlements to the west, as they 
had previously been granted to the old colony of Nova 
Scotia and the Loyalist settlement of New Brunswick, 
but beyond this British governments would not go. An 
all-guiding Colonial Office, a governor who really 
governed, an appointed, and but for the grace of God an 
hereditary, upper house which could always block the 
popular assembly, little cliques of a governing caste in 
control of administration, a church established and 
endowed to teach the people respect for authority, long 
barred the advance of self-government. Then the tide 
of democracy surging through the world, the constitu- 
tional campaigns of Baldwin and Papineau and 
Howe, the bullets of Mackenzie's and Chenier's men, 
the abandonment by Britain itself of the protection- 
ist ideal of a self-contained empire, forced reform. 
This is not the place to repeat the familiar story 
of that early struggle for self-government. Later it 
will be necessary to consider what were the results of the 

20 




CAROLUS LAURIER 

Father of Wilfrid Laurier 



THE MAKING OF A CANADIAN 

half-century of British policy and Canadian develop- 
ment, on the political and party situation, the unity of 
the provinces, the relations of Church and State, the 
sentiment of French-Canadian nationalism, the evolu- 
tion of the colonial status, and the other issues which 
faced Wilfrid Laurier and his fellow-countrymen as 
they came to manhood. 

While these affairs of state were in the balance, gener- 
ation after generation of Lauriers were hewing their 
way through the Northern woods. It was in 1742 in 
the parish of Lachenaie that Jacques, second son of 
Jean Baptiste Laurier and Catherine Lamoureux, mar- 
ried Agathe Rochon. Charles Laurier, fourth of 
Jacques's five children, was a boy of eleven when the bat- 
tles of the Plains of Abraham and of Ste. Foye were 
fought. In the year of the Quebec Act he married 
Marie Marguerite Parant, or Parent. Of their four 
children, only two, Charles and Toussaint, grew to man- 
hood. With Charles Laurier the younger the capacity 
of the stock began to reveal itself and the environment 
to take the shape required to fit his grandson, Wilfrid 
Laurier, for the part he was to play in his country's life. 

Charles Laurier, the grandfather of Wilfrid Laurier, 
was a man of unusual mental capacity and force of char- 
acter. His interests and ambitions extended beyond 
the narrow range of habitant life. Not content with the 
scanty education available in the parish school, he mas- 
tered mathematics and land-surveying. He surveyed a 
great part of the old seigniory of Lachenaie, originally 
granted to Sieur de Repentigny in 1647, and later di- 

21 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

vided, the western half, two leagues along the river and 
six leagues deep, falling in 1794 into the hands of Peter 
Pangman, "Bastonnais" or New Englander, famed for 
his exploits as fighter and fur-trader in the far North- 
West. 

Charles Laurier had an ingenious and practical turn, 
which is evidenced by the fact that he was the first man 
in Upper or Lower Canada to obtain a patent for an 
invention. In 1822 he invented what he termed a loch 
terrestre, or "land log." The Quebec "Gazette" of 
June 24, 1822, noted that an ingenious machine to be 
attached to the wheel of a carriage for measuring the 
distance traversed had been exhibited that month in 
Quebec, and that it was the invention of Mr. Charles de 
Laurier, dit Cottineau, who intended to seek a patent 
from the legislature next session. A letter in the "Ga- 
zette" a few days later from Charles Laurier himself 
dealt at length with the device. He explained that the 
"land log" recorded automatically the number of revolu- 
tions of the carriage-wheel to which it was attached, the 
dials indicating in leagues and decimal fractions of a 
league the distance traversed. In a carriage to which 
this instrument had been attached, one could almost 
make a survey of a province while driving, provided one 
had a good compass. 

In the summer of 1823 M. Laurier determined to put 
his suggestion into practice. He attached the instru- 
ment to the dashboard of a caleche, with five dials indi- 
cating respectively tens of leagues, units, tenths, hun- 
dredths, and thousandths. He drove from Lachenaie 

22 



THE MAKING OF A CANADIAN 

to Quebec city, recording the distance as 54 and 
487/1000 leagues. The legislative assembly, after call- 
ing Joseph Bouchette, the surveyor-general of the prov- 
ince, and E. D. Wells, a Quebec watchmaker, as expert 
witnesses, decided to grant the patent. It was not until 
1826, by which time five other patents had been regis- 
tered, that the formalities were completed, the fees paid 
and the patent obtained. In the same year, 1826, we 
find him asking the Assembly for assistance in making 
experiments in measuring distances on water and record- 
ing the course of a vessel at sea. No aid was granted, 
and apparently nothing further came of the project. 

In 1805 Charles Laurier married Marie Therese 
Cusson. To his son Charles, or Carolus, who was born 
in 1815, he gave a forest farm at St. Lin, on the river 
Achigan, some fifteen miles northeast of Lachenaie. 
Here the son followed in his father's footsteps, survey- 
ing and farming by turns, and here in 1840, when Caro- 
lus had been married some six years, Charles and his 
wife came to spend the rest of their days in a joint house- 
hold. 

The strong common sense of the elder Laurier, his 
frankness and his sturdy emphasis on independence are 
brought out clearly in the etrennes or New Year's 
blessing sent to Carolus in 1836: 

( Translation) 
NEW YEAR'S BLESSING OF CAROLUS LAURIER 

January 1st, 1836 
MY DEAR SON: 

For New Year's blessing I am going to give you some ad- 

23 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

vice, and I hope that you will not scorn it, as you are now the 
head of a household, a substantial villager, and consequently 
a member of society. 

Now in order to be a good member of society, you must be 
independent. Besides independence, many rules of conduct 
are understood, but that is the root of them all. Independence 
does not always mean riches ! It means prudence, foresight 
in business so that you are not taken unawares and forced to 
yield or compromise with anyone. You must judge your own 
business, watch over everything that goes on in your house, 
in a word, over all that may help or hinder your interests. 

You must subdue the flesh. That is to say, work reason- 
ably, prudently and faithfully. A man of bodily activity may 
earn, without any exaggeration, 25 or 50 dollars a year more 
than an indolent man would. That may make an increase in 
his fortune of from 13 to 26 thousand francs at the end of 30 
years. 

Finally, my son, you are your own master; do as you please; 
I give you no commands. But if you wish to achieve inde- 
pendence, pray God to direct your thoughts and your work. It 
is spiritual and bodily activity which leads to independence: 
the indolent man is always in need. This precept may be of 
service to your wife and to everyone. 

CHARLES LAURIER, 

Your affectionate father. 

The same Polonian prudence is evident in another 
New Year's letter, written this time to his daughter-in- 
law, in anticipation of the two households being joined: 

NEW YEAR'S BLESSING OF MARCELLE MARTINEAU, WIFE OF 

CAROLUS LAURIER 

( Translation) 

January First, 1840. 
DEAR MADAM: 

As we intend to be joined together next year and for the rest 
of our days, unless we are greatly disappointed, God grant 
that we may live on good terms with one another. It is to 

24 



THE MAKING OF A CANADIAN 

Him that we must pray for this. Be resolute and patient. If 
we take care, both of us, not to be embittered against one an- 
other, we shall be able to live together happily, for it will be 
less costly to keep house for two families joined together than 
separated, as regards both household tasks and expense. If 
we have the good fortune to agree, we shall be happier together 
than apart. That is why we must fortify ourselves beforehand 
with prudence and patience and resignation. When we fear 
some misfortune, it is very seldom that it comes to us. Be 
wise and prudent. 

CHARLES LAURIEE. 

Carolus Laurier had not the rugged individuality or 
the practical interests of his father, but he had his own 
full share of capacity. His keen wit, his genial com- 
radeship, his generous sympathy, his strong, handsome 
figure, made him a welcome guest through all the French 
and Scotch settlements of the north country. He was 
more interested in political affairs than his father had 
been, and a strong supporter of the Liberal or "Patriot" 
demand for self-government. It was an index of his 
progressiveness that he was the first in the countryside 
to discard the flail for a modern threshing-machine. 

It was to his mother that Wilfrid Laurier always felt 
he owed most. Marie Marcelle Martineau was born in 
L'Assomption in 1815. Her first Canadian ancestor 
was Mathurin Martineau, who emigrated to Canada 
from the same part of France as Jean Cottineau, about 
1687; from this Martineau stock came the poet Louis 
Frechette, who counted himself a Scotch cousin of Wil- 
frid Laurier. On her mother's side Scholastique or 
Colette Desmarais Marcelle Martineau had the blood 
of Acadian exiles in her veins. In 1834, when each was 

25 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

nineteen, Carolus Laurier and Marcelle Martineau were 
married at L'Assomption. Marcelle Laurier was a 
woman of fine mind and calm strength, with an interest 
in literature and an appreciation of beauty in nature 
unusual in her place and time. She was passionately 
fond of pictures, though there was little opportunity to 
gratify her longing, and had a very good natural talent 
for drawing. In the home she made in St. Lin there 
was an intellectual interest and a grace and distinction of 
life which were to leave a lasting impress on the son who 
came to her in her twenty-seventh year. 

In 1841 Carolus Laurier proudly recorded the follow- 
ing entry in his papers : 

(Translation) 

To-day, the twenty-second day of the month of November, 
in the year of Our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and forty- 
one, was baptised in the church of St. Lin, by Messire G. 
Chabot, cure for the said parish, Henri Charles Wilfrid, born 
the twentieth day of the present month, of the lawful marriage 
of Carolus Laurier, gentleman, land-surveyor, and Marie Mar- 
celle Martinault. His godfather is Sieur Louis Charles Beau- 
mont, Esq., gentleman, of Lechenaie; his godmother is Marie 
Zoe Laurier, wife of Sieur L. C. Beaumont. 

On January 23, 1844, he records the birth and baptism 
that day of Marie Honorine Malvina Laurier. 

Marcelle Martineau was not fated to be with her chil- 
dren long. She died in March, 1848, in her thirty-fifth 
year. But in the seven years of her son's life with her, 
she had so knit herself into his being that the proud and 
tender memory of her never faded from his deeply im- 
pressionable mind. A second blow came with the death, 

26 



THE MAKING OF A CANADIAN 

when barely eleven, of the sister who had grown very 
dear to him. 

Carolus Laurier soon took a second wife, Adeline 
Ethier. By this marriage there were five children: 
Ubalde, who became a physician and died at Arthabaska 
in 1898; Charlemagne, for many years a merchant at 
St. Lin, and member for the county of L'Assomption in 
the House of Commons from 1900 until his death in 
1907; Henri, prothonotary at Arthabaska, who died in 
1906, and Carolus and Doctoree (Mme. Lamarche), 
both of whom survived their half-brother. 

Adeline Laurier proved a very kindly and capable 
mother to all her flock. Her hold on the elder boy's 
warm affections, and incidentally her husband's light- 
hearted outlook on life, are brought out in a letter which 
Carolus wrote to a niece of his wife, many years after : 

(Translation) 

St. Lin, March 19, 1886. 

I am almost certain to get well in spite of my seventy-one 
years, and I embarked on the seventy-second the day before 
yesterday, while the Irish were holding their procession in the 
streets of Montreal, and as that day is the day of their patron 
saint and their national festival, and as I came into the world 
71 years ago, I think that is the reason why, when I was a 
widower, 5 or 6 old Irish damsels from New Glasgow used to 
come to mass at St. Lin every Sunday and my seat was always 
full of them. But the moment I married your aunt, pst ! their 
devotion was at an end, and I found myself rid of these old 
girls, and my seat and the rest of the church likewise. 

. . . That did not prevent me keeping my health and being 
very happy with your aunt, and my children too, for I am cer- 
tain that Wilfrid loves his stepmother just as if she was his 
own mother. I always remember that at the age of eleven, 

27 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

when he came home from school, he would go and sit on his 
stepmother's lap to eat his bread and jam or bread and sugar, 
with his arms round her neck, and that he would put his "piece" 
on his knees and wipe his mouth with his handkerchief and kiss 
her over and over, and then pick up his "piece," eat a few 
mouthfuls and begin to kiss her again. . . . 

CAROLUS L. 

St. Lin in the early fifties was a prosperous frontier 
village. Twenty miles to the north the blue Lauren- 
tians set a barrier to further expansion. The village it- 
self was the centre of a broad, fertile, slightly rolling 
plain, still covered for the most part with the maples 
and elms, the pine and spruce, of the primitive forest. 
Its great stone church towered high above the houses 
that lined the two straggling streets. The river Achi- 
gan, on which it lay, turned the wheels of the grist-mills 
on its banks, floated down the logs from the upper 
reaches, and, not least, provided fishing and swimming- 
holes for boys' delight. It was a quiet, pleasant home, 
well devised to give its children happiness in youth, 
strength in manhood, and serene memories in old age. 
Young Laurier shared in the usual children's games, 
though an old companion recalls that many a time when 
the boys would call, "Wilfrid, come, we are ready for a 
race," the answer from the boy bent over a book would 
be, "Just a minute," and again, "A minute more." He 
particularly delighted in wandering through the woods, 
sometimes with gun on his shoulder for rabbit or part- 
ridge, but more often with no other purpose than to 
search out bird and plant and tree. His sharp eyes and 
retentive memory gave him an intimate and abiding 

28 



THE MAKING OF A CANADIAN 

knowledge of wood life of which few but his closest 
friends in later days were aware. 

The boy's early schooling was given partly by his 
mother and partly in the parish school of St. Lin. Un- 
der the French regime a fair measure of elementary 
schooling had been provided, mainly by the religious 
orders, but with diversion of endowments to other ends 
and disputes between Church and State as to control, 
progress after 1763 had been slow. It was not until 
1841 that an adequate system came into force. In the 
school in St. Lin, which is still standing, though no 
longer used as a school, the children of the late forties 
learned their catechism and the three H's. For the ma- 
jority, no further training was possible. For the few 
who were destined for the Church, the bar or medicine, 
the classical college followed. In young Laurier's case 
a novel departure was taken. 

Some seven miles west of St. Lin, on the Achigan, lay 
the village of New Glasgow. It had been settled about 
1820, chiefly by Scottish Presbyterians belonging to 
various British regiments. Carolus Laurier in his work 
as a surveyor had made many friends in New Glasgow, 
and had come to realize the value of knowledge not only 
of English speech but of the way of life and thought of 
his English-speaking countrymen. He accordingly 
determined to send Wilfrid, at the age of eleven, to the 
school in New Glasgow for two years. Arrangements 
were made to have him stay with the Kirks, an Irish 
Catholic family, but when the time came illness in the 
Kirk household prevented, and it was necessary to seek 

29 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

a lodging elsewhere. One of Carolus's most intimate 
friends was John Murray, clerk of the court and owner 
of the leading village store. Mrs. Murray took in the 
boy and for some months he was one of the family. The 
Murrays, Presbyterians of the old stock, held family 
worship every night. Wilfrid was told that if he de- 
sired he would be excused from attending, but he ex- 
pressed the wish to take part, and night after night 
learned never-forgotten lessons of how men and women 
of another faith sought God. When Mrs. Kirk re- 
covered, he went to her for the remainder of his two 
years in New Glasgow, but he was still in and out of the 
Murrays' every day, and many a time helped behind the 
counter in the store. The place he found in the life of 
the Kirks may be gathered from a passing remark in a 
letter from his father forty years later: "Nancy Kirk 
writes that her father is now over a hundred and begin- 
ning to wander in his mind : 'he does not see us at all, 
but talks of Wilfrid and of Ireland.' 

The school in New Glasgow was open to all creeds and 
was attended by both boys and girls. It was taught by 
a succession of unconventional schoolmasters, for the 
most part old soldiers. The work of the first year in 
New Glasgow, 1852-53, came to an abrupt end with the 
sudden departure of the master in April. A man of 
much greater parts, Sandy Maclean, took his place the 
following year. He had read widely, and was never so 
happy as when he was quoting English poetry by the 
hour. With a stiff glass of Scotch within easy reach on 
his desk, and the tawse still more prominent, he drew on 

30 



THE MAKING OF A CANADIAN 

the alert and spurred on the laggards. His young pupil 
from St. Lin often recalled in after years with warm 
good-will the name of the man who first opened to him 
a vision of the great treasures of English letters. 

The two years spent in New Glasgow were of price- 
less worth in the turn they gave to young Laurier's 
interests. It was much that he learned the English 
tongue, in home and school and playground. It was 
more that he came unconsciously to know and appreciate 
the way of looking at life of his English-speaking coun- 
trymen, and particularly to understand that many roads 
lead to heaven. It was an admirable preparation for the 
work which in later years was to be nearest to his heart, 
the endeavour to make the two races in Canada under- 
stand each other and work harmoniously together for 
their common country. Carolus Laurier set an example 
which French-speaking and English-speaking Cana- 
dians alike might still follow with profit to their children 
and their country. 

New Glasgow was only an interlude. Carolus 
Laurier had determined to give his son as good a train- 
ing as his means would allow. That meant first a long 
course in a secondary school, followed by professional 
study for law, medicine or the Church, the three fields 
then open to an ambitious youth. Secondary education 
in Lower Canada was relatively much more advanced 
than primary; the need of adequate training for the 
leaders of the community had been recognized earlier 
than the need or possibility of adequate training for all. 
The petit seminaire at Quebec and the Sulpicians' col- 

31 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

lege at Montreal had trained the men who led their 
people in the constitutional struggles following 1791. 
Secondary schools or colleges, modelled largely on the 
French colleges and lycees, had early been established in 
the more accessible centres, in 1804 at Nicolet, in 1812 
at St. Hyacinthe, in 1824 at Ste. Therese, in 1827 at Ste. 
Anne de la Pocatiere, and in 1832 at L'Assomption. 
All were maintained and controlled by the Church. 

In September, 1854, Wilfrid Laurier entered the col- 
lege at L'Assomption in the town of the same name, on 
L'Assomption River twenty miles east of St. Lin. 
Here for seven years he followed the regular course, 
covering what in English-speaking Canada would be 
taken up in high school and the first years of college. 
The chief emphasis was laid on Latin ; the good fathers 
succeeded not merely in grinding into their pupils a 
thorough knowledge of moods and tenses, but in giving 
them an appreciation of the masterpieces of Roman 
literature. Many a time in later years when leaving for 
a brief holiday Mr. Laurier would slip into his bag a 
volume of Horace or Catullus or an oration of Cicero, 
and, what is less usual, would read it. French literature 
was given the next place in their studies, the literature, 
needless to say, of the grand age, of Bossuet and Racine 
and Corneille, not the writings of the men of revolution- 
ary and post-revolutionary days, from Voltaire to Hugo 
and Beranger. Briefer courses in Greek, English, 
mathematics, philosophy, geography and history com- 
pleted the seven years' studies. It was a training of ob- 
vious limitations, but in the hands of good teachers such 

32 




THE VILLAGE SCHOOL, ST. LIN 




L'ASSOMPTION COLLEGE 



THE MAKING OF A CANADIAN 

as the fathers at L'Assomption were, it gave men des- 
tined for the learned professions an excellent mental 
discipline, a mastery of speech and style, and a sympa- 
thetic understanding of the life and culture of men of 
other lands and times. 

The school discipline at L'Assomption was strict. 
The boys rose at 5:30, and every hour had its task or 
was set aside for meal-time or play-time. The college 
had not then built a refectory, and the students, though 
rooming in the college buildings, scattered through the 
town for their meals. Every Sunday, garbed in blue 
and black coat, collegian's cap, and blue sash, all at- 
tended the parish church; on week-days only the sash 
was worn. Once a week, on Thursday afternoons, 
there came a welcome half-holiday excursion to the coun- 
try, usually to a woods belonging to the college a few 
miles away. 5 These excursions young Laurier enjoyed 
to the full, but he was not able to take much part in 
the more strenuous games of his comrades. The weak- 

i During the celebration, in 1883, of the fiftieth anniversary of the found- 
ing of i/Assomption, Mr. Laurier recalled to his friends, young and old, 
the part this holiday had held in their student life: 

(Translation) 

"In my time, we began to think of the next holiday when do you think? 
At the end of the holiday. All week, our main preoccupation was as to 
whether it would be fine next Thursday. All week, we studied the heavens 
with as much care and more anxiety than the Vennors of to-day. On 
Wednesday evening if the weather was fine, prayers were held in the open 
air on the ballground. Our prayers mounted straight to heaven. 
Invariably we ended by a canticle to her whom we called the patron saint 
of scholars. What we sang was that sweet canticle of which each stanza 
ends with the words so very appropriate to the thought which was filling 
our minds for the morrow: 'Grant us a good day.' Ah, with what 
confidence, with what ardour, our invocations rose to heaven! Even those 
who had no voice found one for the occasion. Next day our prayers had 

33 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

ness which was to beset his early manhood was already 
developing, and violent exercise had been forbidden. 
His recreation took other forms. The literary part of 
the course, the glories of Roman and French and Eng- 
lish literature, made a deep appeal to him. He took his 
full share in the warm and dogmatic discussions in which 
groups of the keener youngsters settled the problems of 
life and politics raised by their reading or echoed from 
the world outside. Sometimes a nearer glimpse was 
given of the activities of that outer world. Assize courts 
were held twice a year, and when election-time came 
round, joint debates between the rival candidates at the 
church door after Sunday mass or from improvised 
street platforms on a week-day evening were unalloyed 
delight. More than once he broke bounds to drink in 
the fiery eloquence of advocate or politician, well con- 
tent to purchase a stimulating hour with the punishment 
that followed. 

Wilfrid Laurier had come to L'Assomption with a 
strong leaning toward Liberalism. His father's freely 
spoken views, discussions of his elders overheard in St. 
Lin and New Glasgow, echoes of the eloquence of the 
great tribune Papineau, the reading of the history of 
Canada which Garneau had written to belie Durham's 
charge that French-speaking Canada had no literature, 
had awakened political interest and given him the bent 

i 

been granted: the weather was fine. The flag, messenger of good tidings, 
floated gaily at the top of the May-pole: it was 'the long holiday'; we were 
going to the woods. And I ask you, my old fellow-students, is there a 
single one of us who is not rejoicing that to-morrow will be 'the long 
holiday' and that we are going to the woods?" 

34 



THE MAKING OF A CANADIAN 

which his own temperament and his later reading con- 
firmed. If the seed had not been vital and deeply 
planted, his Liberalism could scarcely have survived the 
Conservative atmosphere of L'Assomption. When the 
French-Canadian majority which had fought 
solidly for self-government divided, once self- 
government was attained, into Liberals and Con- 
servatives, the great mass of the clergy, as will 
be noted later, took the Conservative turning. The col- 
lege authorities and the great majority of his fellow- 
students looked with more than suspicion on his political 
heresies. When a debating society which young 
Laurier had helped to organize ventured on still more 
dangerous ground, taking up the highly contentious 
theme over which historians have shed quarts of ink: 
"Resolved, that in the interests of Canada the French 
kings should have permitted the Huguenots to settle 
here," and when the student from St. Lin took the 
affirmative and pressed his points home, the scandalized 
prefet d* etudes intervened, and there was no more debat- 
ing at L'Assomption. Yet these differences were not 
serious. The relations between teachers and pupils 
were very friendly. Young Laurier was soon recog- 
nized as the most promising student of his time, and it 
was with pride that the authorities and his fellows chose 
him to make the orations or read the addresses on state 
occasions. 

Students of all political tendencies and of none were 
graduated from L'Assomption. It was the alma mater, 
though in the days before the rise of parties (1835-42) , 

35 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

of the giant Rouge tribune, Joseph Papin, le gros canon 
du parti democratique, who is still commemorated in 
the college halls, with laudable impartiality, as vir 
statura, voce et dialectica potens, and of Leon Simeon 
Morin (1841-48), his brilliant Conservative opponent, 
who shot like a fiery meteor across the political sky of 
Canada. Louis A. Jette, founder of the Parti Na- 
tional which sought to reconcile Liberalism and the 
Church, and later an eminent judge, left L'Assomption 
the year before Wilfrid Laurier entered. Arthur Dan- 
sereau, for many years the leading Conservative jour- 
nalist in Quebec, was a year his junior, while in his 
last year there entered a young lad from Lanoraie whose 
path was to cross his many a time in the future, the 
stormy petrel of Quebec politics, J. Israel Tarte. 

The seven years soon passed and the momentous day 
of graduation came. Of the twenty-three members of 
his class (the 22nd "course") only nine completed the 
seven years. The interests of the class were well 
divided. Of the later career of three, two of whom 
went to the Western States, no record is available. Of 
the other twenty, three became barristers (avocats) and 
three notaries, these six providing the three who won 
legislative honours; four became priests, four doctors, 
and three farmers, two entered business, and one died 
while at school. 

Wilfrid Laurier's ambitions had long been turned 
toward law, and when he left L'Assomption at the age 
of nineteen it was with the purpose of beginning imme- 
diately to study for the bar. The leading law school of 

36 



THE MAKING OF A CANADIAN 

Canada was then the Faculty of Law at McGill Uni- 
versity. It had a strong staff of judges and of barris- 
ters in active practice, and the offices of the city gave 
ample opportunity for training in the routine of law. 
The law faculty of Laval University, Montreal, it may 
be noted, was not established until 1878. 

To Montreal, then, Wilfrid Laurier journeyed in the 
fall of 1861, with high hopes but some foreboding as to 
what life in a large city would mean. He found a place 
in the office of Rodolphe Laflamme, one of the leaders 
of the Montreal bar and a very aggressive Rouge or 
advanced Liberal. The salary paid, though small, was 
a very welcome supplement to the funds his father had 
been able to advance. 

The three-year course, which led to the degree of 
Bachelor of Civil Law, covered not only the basic sys- 
tems of our jurisprudence, the civil law of Rome and the 
common law of England, but the developments which 
custom and legislators and code-makers had brought 
about in English-speaking and French-speaking 
Canada. The lectures were given in English or French, 
according to the mother tongue of the speaker. Mr. 
Laurier, with his New Glasgow training and his later 
reading, had no great difficulty in following the Eng- 
lish lectures. He had more trouble at first in under- 
standing the Latin phrases in the lectures on Roman 
law delivered by Justice Torrance, for at that time the 
English pronunciation of Latin was almost the uni- 
versal rule among English-speaking scholars. Hon. 
J. J. C. Abbott, dean of the faculty, and destined thirty 

37 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

years later to become in a party emergency Prime Min- 
ister of Canada, was a sound and authoritative teacher 
of commercial law. Rodolphe Laflamme taught cus- 
tomary law and the law of real estate, and Hon. Wm. 
Badgeley and E. C. Carter criminal law. Throughout, 
Wilfrid Laurier ranked high in his work, though for the 
comfort of those students who gather instances of men 
succeeding in examinations and failing in the sterner 
tests of life, it may be noted that the one man who ranked 
higher was never heard of again. In his first and again 
in his third year, he stood second in general proficiency, 
and at graduation was first in the thesis required of all 
candidates for the degree. He was accordingly chosen 
to give the valedictory. It is not customary to find in 
student valedictories mature and original contributions 
to the philosophy of life. The address given on this 
occasion had its share of the rhetoric of youth, but it 
was a really notable utterance. The young valedic- 
torian sketched a picture, somewhat idealized perhaps, 
of the lawyer's place in the nation's life, forecasting 
in more than one particular the principles which were 
to guide his own public career. The duty and the op- 
portunity of the lawyer to maintain private right, to 
uphold constitutional liberty, and to work for the har- 
mony of the two races in Canada, were strongly empha- 
sized in vigorous and glowing phrase. 

Valedictories butter no parsnips. No time could be 
lost in seeking to make a living. Mr. Laurier was ad- 
mitted to the bar of Quebec in 1864, and in October of 
that year began practice in Montreal as a member of 
the firm of Laurier, Archambault and Desaulniers. 

38 



THE MAKING OF A CANADIAN 

All three partners were keen and ambitious, but the 
city seemed well satisfied with the old established firms, 
and clients were few. Finding difficulty in tiding over 
the months of waiting, the partners dissolved in April, 
1865. Mr. Laurier then formed a partnership with 
Mederic Lanctot. Lanctot was a fiery and brilliant 
speaker, of unbounded energy and audacity, but poorly 
ballasted with judgment and fated for all his lavish 
endowment to wreck his career. The partners were 
curiously assorted the older man eager, passionate, 
fond of lively company, ready to debate any question 
in heaven above or earth beneath ; the younger, reserved, 
retiring, firmly rooted in his convictions but calm and 
balanced in their defence. Lanctot was absorbed in 
politics, writing, speaking, organizing petitions against 
Cartier's Confederation policy. Laurier was left to 
carry on most of the work of the office. Their rooms 
were the meeting place of an eager group of young law- 
yers, burning with opinion or phrases on the political 
issues of the day, and in Quebec fashion turning lightly 
from law to journalism. Ill-health and his reserve and 
moderation of temper kept Mr. Laurier from taking an 
active part in their discussions, but friendships were 
formed and opinions shaped which counted for much in 
after years. 

The question of his health was in fact now giving him 
serious concern. Throat and lung trouble had devel- 
oped, accompanied by serious hemorrhages. Many of 
his friends felt that a quiet country town would give a 
better fighting chance than a crowded city. Antoine 
Dorion, his most valued friend, and the Liberal leader 

39 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

in Canada East, * advised him to open a law office in the 
growing village of L'Avenir, in the Eastern Townships, 
and to combine with the law the editing of the weekly 
newspaper, "Le Defricheur," which Dorion's younger 
brother, Eric, had founded and managed until his death 
in 1866. Mr. Laurier felt that the advice was sound, 
and in November, 1866, he left Montreal for the little 
backwoods village. A brief residence convinced him 
that in spite of its optimistic name L'Avenir had no fu- 
ture, and accordingly he moved his newspaper and his 
law office to Victoriaville, thirty miles further east. 
While Victoriaville, as the railway centre of the district, 
became in time the chief business town, Mr. Laurier con- 
cluded that his law practice would flourish more securely 
in the judicial centre or chef lieu of the district, St. 
Christophe, or, as it was later termed, Arthabaskaville, 
and early in 1867 he opened his office in the picturesque 
little town which was to be his home for the next thirty 
years. 2 

One further personal episode, and that the most im- 
portant of his career, remains to be chronicled before sur- 

1 The two provinces of Lower Canada and Upper Canada nominally 
became one after 1841, but the old names lingered in popular usage, and 
the corresponding division into Canada East and Canada West held a 
measure of official sanction until at Confederation the present names of 
Quebec and Ontario were substituted. 

2 On the eve of his departure for Arthabaska, "Le Pays" records a ban- 
quet given by his Montreal friends at the Hotel St. Louis in his honour. 
The gathering was notable, the toasts many and all duly honoured. 
Among the friends recorded as present were Edmond Angers, L. O. Da- 
vid, J. A. Chapleau, C. A. Geoffrion, G. Doutre, L. A. Jett6, Metric 
Lanctot, T. R. Laflamme, Charles Marcil, F. X. Rainville, and J. C. 
Robidoux. 

40 







WILFRID LAURIER 
At twenty-four 



THE MAKING OF A CANADIAN 

veying the beginnings of his public interests and activi- 
ties in Montreal and the Townships. 

When Wilfrid Laurier first came to Montreal he 
knew little of the city or its people his only memory 
of it a child's awe-struck vision of endless houses and 
endless people, glimpsed from a crowded seat in a car- 
riole, a dozen winters before. Neighbours in St. Lin 
reminded him of a close friend of his mother, Mme. 
Gauthier, whose husband had been the village doctor in 
Marcelle Laurier's short married life. Dr. Gauthier 
was now practising in Montreal. The young student 
went to their home, and lived with them two of his 
five Montreal years. 

Both Dr. and Mme. Gauthier were much interested in 
music and both were hospitably inclined. They kept 
open house for a wide circle of young people of like 
tastes. In this group Wilfrid Laurier took his place, 
but it was within the house that he found his absorbing 
interest. Mme. Lafontaine and her daughter Zoe were 
also living at the Gauthiers'. Not many months had 
passed before the vivacious charm, the piquant blending 
of deep kindliness and straight-spoken frankness, the 
wit and judgment, and the musical gifts of Mile. La- 
fontaine had completely captured young Laurier's 
heart. Nor was it long until Mile. Lafontaine had 
come to feel that this quiet young man of reserved but 
assured power, of strikingly handsome figure, of unfail- 
ing courtesy to all about him, who had already an air of 
distinction and a touch of the grand seigneur which 

41 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

made all eyes follow him, was the centre of her world. 
But he was as yet only a student at law, and she was 
earning her living as a teacher of music. Marriage 
seemed out of the question for long years. Then came 
the increasing grip of illness on his frail body, and the 
removal to Arthabaskaville without any definite under- 
standing between them. 3 

i To this period naturally belong Mr. Laurier's few lapses into poetry, 
of which the following unpublished verses are typical: 

LE TEMPS 

. 

Comme 1'onde qui fuit de rivage en rivage, 
Sans suspendre jamais son cours sur nulle plage, 
Tels pousse"s du destin qui nous tient enchaines 
'Nos jours fuient du berceau vers la tombe entrained. 

Le Temps marche tou jours d'une aile infatigable; 
II n'est point de repos pour sa main redoutable; 
Elle va, d^triusant, batissant tour a tour, 
Pour batir et d6truire encore un autre jour. 

Si quelqu* Eclair de joie illumine ma vie, 
En vain je crie au Temps, en vain je le supplie 
De ralentir 1'essor de son vol destructeur, 
De me laisser jouir d'un instant de bonheur. 

Comme un gladiateur dans la cite" romaine, 
Aux cent mille bravos du peuple dans 1'arene, 
Etreint son ennemi de son bras de g6ant, 
L'6touffe et, plein d'orgueil, le rejette sanglant, 

Tel le Temps me saisit dans le sein de ma joie; 
II m'entraine avec lui, comme 1'aigle sa proie; 
II m'abandonne enfin; sa main me laisse aller, 
Pour me reprendre, et puis, me laisser retomber. 

January 6, 1863. 

A UN PAPILLON 

Doux petit papillon, a peine dans la nuit 
Commence de briller ma lampe solitaire, 
Comme le plomb fatal, qui vers le but s'enfuit, 
Tu tombes palpitant sur la pale lumiere. 

Et chaque fois pourtant tes pures ailes d'or 
A la flamme brulante ont laisse des parcelles: 

42 



THE MAKING OF A CANADIAN 

Separation and time did not weaken affection, but 
neither did they remove the barriers. There were weeks 
of doubt when Mr. Laurier was convinced that his days 
were numbered and that he could not fairly ask any girl 
to share them. Then would come days of hope and de- 
termination, and in his letters he would insist that he 
could and would recover. In the meantime other suit- 
ors were pressing, and particularly a physician in good 
practice and good circumstances in Montreal. Pru- 
dence, friends urged that it was quixotic to refuse this 
suitor because of an interest in a struggling country 
lawyer, with a most uncertain lease of life. The 
pressure won. The engagement of Mile. Lafontaine 
and her Montreal suitor was announced. Then ten 
days before the marriage was to have taken place, Fate, 
in the cheery person of Dr. Gauthier, intervened. He 
telegraphed Mr. Laurier to come to Montreal at once 
on important business. He came, saw, conquered. 
The young couple determined to heed their own hearts 
and their own half -believed hopes. In reality Mile. La- 
fontaine did not believe that their married life would 
be longer than a year or two, but if she could make her 
husband's life happier and easier for that time, she was 
prepared to make the venture. Action followed 
quickly. A special dispensation was secured, and at 

Quel atroce plaisir peut t'amener encore 

Y chercher aujourd'hui des tortures nouvelles? 

Comme toi, papillon, jadis naif enfant, 

A gravir du succes 1'inaccessible cime, 

J'ai vers6 sans profit le meilleur de mon sang, 

Et de ma folle ardeur suis retombe victirae. 

May, 1867. 

43 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

eight o'clock that evening, May 13, 1868, Wilfrid 
Laurier and Zoe Lafontaine were married. As he had 
to appear in court in Arthabaskaville next morning, he 
left at ten the same evening, returning three days later 
to take Mme. Laurier back to their new home. They 
had challenged fortune, and fortune yielded to their 
faith. Soon the shadows lifted, and they entered on 
fifty years of rare happiness and close communion. 
That was for the future to disclose, but already in mar- 
rying Mile. Lafontaine, Wilfrid Laurier had achieved 
half his career. 



CHAPTER II 

THE POLITICAL SCENE 

The Union Era The Reshaping of Parties: Responsible 
Government Bedard and Papineau Papineau and LaFontaine 
The Rise of the Rouges The Liberal-Conservatives Parties at 
Confederation The Rise of Nationalism: A Conflict of Races 
Laurier on Durham The Failure of Durham's Policy Barriers 
to National Unity Laurier and Confederation Church and 
State: The Church under Two Regimes The Rouges and Rome 
The Passing of L'Avenir The Institute Controversy Laurier 
and Le Defricheur. 

IN the Canada of the sixties a young man's fancies 
lightly turned to thoughts of polities. Public life 
dominated the interest of the general public and 
stirred the ambition of the abler individuals in far 
greater measure than is true in these days when business 
makes a rival appeal. Particularly in Lower Canada, 
a political career was the normal objective, or at least 
the visioned hope, of the majority of the young men of 
education and capacity. 

From boyhood days Wilfrid Laurier had been keenly 
interested in public affairs. His student apprenticeship 
and his first years of practice in Montreal gave an oppor- 
tunity for forming political connections and taking a 
part in public controversies which strongly confirmed 
his early leanings. Now, as editor of the chief demo- 
cratic journal of the Eastern Townships, he was a char- 
tered guide of public opinion. His law practice brought 
him into close contact with all parts of the district, and 
before five years had passed he was marked as the des- 

45 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

tined standard-bearer of the Liberals of the county. 

Wilfrid Laurier was born in the year that Upper and 
Lower Canada were yoked together in uneasy fellow- 
ship. He had just begun the practice of law at Artha- 
baskaville when the union of the two Canadas was dis- 
solved and the wider federation of all the mainland 
provinces was achieved. It was in the Canada of the 
Union era that the stage was set and the players trained 
for the comedies and the tragedies, the melodrama and 
the vaudeville, of Confederation politics. 

The stage was not a large one. The province of 
Canada was just emerging from its years of pioneer 
struggles and backwoods isolation. Its two million peo- 
ple seemed to count for little in the work of the world. 
Neither Britain nor France nor the United States gave 
them more than a passing thought. Even with the 
other provinces of British North America they had lit- 
tle contact : no road or railway bound them. Until well 
on in the Union period, each section had closer relations 
with the adjoining states than with its sister provinces 
Upper Canada with "York" State, Lower Canada 
with New Hampshire and Vermont, and the Maritime 
provinces with Maine and Massachusetts. 

Yet if it was not large, the provincial stage witnessed 
its full share of the dramatic motives and movements of 
political life. Here experiments were worked out in 
the organization of government and of parties, in the 
relation of race with race, in the connection between 
Church and State, and in the linking of colony and em- 
pire, which deeply influenced the development of the 

46 



THE POLITICAL SCENE 

future Dominion and were not without interest to the 
world beyond. 

In the words of Mr. Laurier, in an unpublished frag- 
ment of a work he long planned to write, had fate given 
him leisure, the political history of Canada under the 
Union, 

A new era began with the Union. In this new era there was 
found nothing of that which had given the past its attraction, 
neither the great feats of arms to save the native soil from in- 
vasion, nor the intrepid journeys of the explorers led on and 
on by an unquenchable thirst for the unknown, nor the journeys, 
more intrepid still, of the missionaries everywhere marking with 
their blood the path for the explorers. The very parlia- 
mentary battles on which henceforth the attention of the na- 
tion was to be concentrated no longer bore the striking impress 
which had been stamped on the parliamentary struggles after 
the Conquest by the prestige of those who took part in them, 
the greatness of the cause which was defended, and the bloody 
catastrophe which was their outcome. 

Colourless these pages may be, but they are not barren. 
They recall an epoch which, in spite of failures, was on the 
whole fruitful, in which the patriot's eye may follow with legiti- 
mate pride the calm, powerful and salutary influence of free 
institutions. 1 

The tasks of government and the scope and organiza- 
tion of parties had been greatly modified by the union of 
Upper and Lower Canada in 1841. The Union Act 
brought together two communities of deeply varying 
ways and traditions, communities which for fifty years 
had had their separate governments and their local 
parties. The mere union of the two provinces would 
have made it necessary to shift the bases of political 
activity, but union further brought in its train respon- 

i Translation. 

47 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

sible government, and responsible government involved 
as an essential condition the existence of political par- 
ties more definite and coherent than had hitherto existed 
in the Canadas. 

The insistence of the Reformers of Upper Canada 
and the Patriotes of Lower Canada, through years of 
struggle, upon a greater share in their own governing, 
and the shock of the rebellion of 1837, had compelled 
British statesmen to recognize at last that concessions 
must be made. Under Durham's guidance, they had 
come to see that the concession should take the form 
which Robert Baldwin, the leader of the Upper Canada 
Reformers, had long demanded the grant, in some 
measure, of responsible government. Responsible 
government meant in essence that the administration of 
the country should be entrusted* to the leaders of the 
dominant party in parliament, rather than, as in the 
past, to the governor and the bureaucrats whom he ap- 
pointed. But how could such freedom, even with the 
restrictions with which in early years the concession was 
hedged about, be granted to a colony like Lower Can- 
ada, where the majority would inevitably be composed of 
French-Canadians? English statesmen could bring 
themselves, with difficulty, to admit the need of self- 
government for the colonists of English speech and tra- 
ditions in Upper Canada, but to propose the same policy 
for a colony alien in blood and tongue and sympathy 
appeared to them beyond discussion. Only by uniting 
the provinces, to assure an English-speaking majority, 
could the experiment be risked. Nor was the Union 

48 




MLLE. ZOE LAFONTAINE 



THE POLITICAL SCENE 

only negatively directed against French- Canadian 
aspirations. Its framers hoped to make Union a posi- 
tive means of anglicizing French Canada, of bringing 
the habitant to realize the folly of isolation in a con- 
tinent of English speech. How they fared in this en- 
deavour will be noted later. 

The primary task of the forties was the winning and 
consolidation of responsible government. Governor 
after governor and tenant after tenant of Downing 
Street sought to set narrow bounds to the concession 
that had been found unavoidable, but in vain. Robert 
Baldwin, "the man of one idea," and Louis Hippolyte 
LaFontaine, leader, in Papineau's enforced absence, of 
the Lower Canada Liberals, stood firm in their in- 
sistence that complete control of the domestic affairs of 
the province must be conceded to a body of ministers 
responsible to parliament and chosen from its dominant 
parties. Sydenham fought their demands, but by mak- 
ing himself the leader of a party majority in the As- 
sembly played into the hands of those who insisted that 
party majorities should rule. Bagot, less assertive in 
temper, made some concessions of intention and more 
through the accident of illness. Metcalfe, sent out by 
the Colonial Office as the last bulwark of authority, 
breasted the tide with success for a year or two, but at 
last was compelled to recognize his failure. Elgin, the 
last of the governors of the forties, gave formal recogni- 
tion of the victory of the upholders of self-government 
by summoning LaFontaine and Baldwin to form the 
ministry of 1848. \ 

49 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

On this question of responsible government, the con- 
clusions of Mr. Laurier, embodied in the same pregnant 
fragment, are of particular interest because of his early 
relations with the Rouges and the exponents of the 
Papineau tradition, and his own long experience of the 
working of the system: 

Thus Lord Durham's idea had been realized, but its realiza- 
tion had only been gradual. The theory of Lord John Russell 
continued to be the theory of Lord Sydenham, of Sir Charles 
Metcalfe and of the Colonial Office, until Lord Elgin, who to 
the generous spirit of Lord Durham added a capacity perhaps 
more solid, grasped the great reformer's idea and applied it 
with as much freedom as he himself would have done. 

If, to the England of 1840, the idea of the responsibility of 
ministers appeared incompatible with the colonial status, the col- 
ony was more advanced on this point than the mother country. 

In Upper Canada a large group, -more important even for 
talent than for numbers, had long been demanding the responsi- 
bility of ministers to the Assembly. The men of this party had 
found in Lord Durham's report the expression of the ideas 
which they had long been professing. They had voted without 
hesitation for the proposal for union, because they had hoped 
that Lord Durham's report would be acted upon in its en- 
tirety. Nevertheless, it was not in Upper Canada, nor in the 
British population [of Lower Canada] that the idea of minis- 
terial responsibility as applied to the government of the colon- 
ies had seen the light for the first time. The man who was the 
first to affirm the principle of ministerial responsibility in the 
government of the colonies was Joseph Bedard, and that as 
early as 1809. Nevertheless, this weighty suggestion had not 
been followed up. A few years later, Bedard had withdrawn 
from the arena and Mr. Papineau had entered it. The policy 
enunciated by Bedard had been set aside, to give place to an- 
other much bolder. In all the long struggles that Mr. Papi- 

50 



THE POLITICAL SCENE 

neau carried on with the government, he does not seem ever 
to have dreamed that the concession of constitutional govern- 
ment might be a sufficient reform and that he himself might be- 
come the minister in control. All his efforts were unceasingly 
directed toward establishing the supremacy of the Assembly 
over the executive power, and toward making the executive 
power the executor of the will of the Assembly. Under a con- 
stitutional monarchy, it is true, the ministry exists only with 
the consent of the elective branch, but in reality, it is the min- 
istry that dominates the Assembly. The Assembly has num- 
bers and strength, but it allows itself to be led and dominated 
until the time when, changing its mind, it resumes its power 
only to let itself be dominated once more by others. This sys- 
tem is doubtless not the perfect ideal that a thinker might 
dream of, nevertheless it is the system, of all invented by man, 
which has taken away least of individual liberty. This is not 
the system that Mr. Papineau sought. Mr. Papineau seemed 
to conceive a state of things in which in point of fact the As- 
sembly would be sovereign, and in which the Administration's 
sole duty would be to carry out its decrees. Everything was 
subordinated to secure this result, and certainly, if it had been 
secured, it would have been good enough. Yet Mr. Papineau's 
thought went much farther still. In the debates on the 92 
resolutions, he allows us to see clearly his republican ideals: 
"It is the obvious destiny of the continent, and since a change 
must be made in our constitution, is it a crime to make it with 
this conjecture in view?" The man who used such words could 
have only one end in view : independence. 

Responsible government meant party government. 
Only through party organization could there be assured 
a stable and united majority to back the ministry in 
power, and a definite opposition to criticize that minis- 
try and stand prepared to provide an alternative ad- 
ministration. And yet the very winning of responsible 

51 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

government, and the union of the provinces which was 
bound up with it, made it extremely difficult to find or 
keep stable and effective political parties. 

The weakness and instability of parties in this period 
had two roots. One was the union of the provinces, a 
union which brought together extremely diverse ele- 
ments and yet was not sufficiently complete to merge 
and fuse them. Union made it necessary to organize 
a majority not in one section alone but in the whole 
province, and to organize it out of parties which hitherto 
had had little contact or little in common. At the same 
time the incomplete and semi-federal character of the 
union prevented the complete assimilation which the 
smooth working of the party machinery demanded. 
From the beginning there had been a recognition of 
continuing separateness in the provision that each sec- 
tion of the province, irrespective of population, should 
be given half the number of representatives in the 
legislature. As time went on, this separateness was con- 
firmed by the practice of passing laws applying only to 
one section, by holding the sessions of parliament alter- 
nately in Quebec and in Toronto, by the inclusion in the 
cabinet of both an Attorney-General West and an At- 
torney-General East, and by the custom of a double- 
barrelled leadership, two "premiers," LaFontaine- 
Baldwin, Macdonald-Cartier, Brown-Dorion. It was 
inevitable under such circumstances that any union of 
parties from Canada East and Canada West should be, 
not a complete merging, but only a coalition of more 
or less stability. 

52 



THE POLITICAL SCENE 

The other source of party weakness lay in the break- 
ing up of the existing parties in each section because 
of the achievement of old aims or the emergence of new 
issues. The Tory parties, the defenders of the estab- 
lished order, were broken up by defeat, by the steady 
destruction of one after another of the planks in the 
platform upon which they had stood and fought. The 
control of colonial affairs by the mother country, the 
authority within the province of the governor and his 
preordained advisers, the active share in legislation of 
the narrow, nominated legislative council, the endow- 
ment of a state church in Upper Canada by the grant 
of vast areas of crown lands, the maintenance in Lower 
Canada of that survival of medieval feudalism, seign- 
oirial tenure, these and other principles of the old 
ascendancy parties went by the board in the late forties 
and early fifties. To their opponents victory proved 
almost as disintegrating as defeat. The Reformers in 
Upper Canada, the Patriote or Canadien or Liberal 
party in Lower Canada, had within their ranks diverse 
elements which only opposition to a common foe could 
hold together. Once victory, or an instalment of vic- 
tory, was won, these latent differences became apparent. 
The moderate men who were content to abide in a half- 
way house and the radicals who were eager to push on 
to the end of the vanishing road, now parted company. 
The experience gained in actual administration brought 
out differences of temperament and interest. New 
economic issues, canal and railway projects, tax and 
tariff questions, forced new alignments. The outcome 

53 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

was curiously parallel to the reorganization of parties 
which was going on at the same time in Great Britain. 
In both cases, Tories were mellowing into Conservatives 
and the victorious opposition breaking up into Whigs 
and Radicals, or into moderate Liberals and Clear Grits 
or Rouges. 

In Canada West, Robert Baldwin was the leader and 
the best representative of the moderate Reformers. 
Scrupulously fair, sturdily independent, he was pre- 
pared to fight without rest or truce for the right as he 
saw it, but equally prepared to find the right on most 
political and economic issues midway between the ex- 
treme positions. He fought until he had achieved re- 
sponsible government, but he was unwilling to use the 
new powers to secure all the sweeping changes his more 
impatient followers demanded. The malcontents were 
led at first by Dr. Rolph and William Lyon Mackenzie, 
of the left wing of the old Reform party, but later they 
drew to themselves new men like William McDougall, 
disappointed Tories like Malcolm Cameron, and latest 
and greatest, George Brown, a powerful journalist and 
tribune, newly come from Scotland. The Clear Grits, 
as these uncompromising stalwarts came to be known, 
were, in the first place, more democratic than the Bald- 
win Reformers, insisting on a widely extended suffrage, 
vote by ballot, and the abolition of property qualifica- 
tions for members. Unlike Baldwin, who looked wholly 
to England for his political inspiration, most of them 
(Brown excepted) were inclined to find the United 
States the last word in democracy, and particularly 

54 



THE POLITICAL SCENE 

when disillusioned by discovering that even Liberals 
when in office could be arbitrary and high-handed, they 
sought to lessen the power of governments by extending 
the elective principle, proposing to elect not merely the 
legislative council or upper house, but the governor and 
the chief administrative officials. A third point of dif- 
ference lay in their more sweeping insistence on Ca- 
nadian autonomy. A still more marked characteristic 
was their strong anti-clerical bias, which first found 
vent in their opposition to the endowment and establish- 
ment of the Church of England, but later, under George 
Brown's vigorous impulse, turned chiefly into suspi- 
cion and denunciation of Roman Catholic intrigue and 
domination of the province by "priest-ridden French- 
Canadians." 

In Canada East, the causes of the split in the Liberal 
ranks were in part strikingly alike and in part signifi- 
cantly different. Louis Hippolyte LaFontaine, who 
stood head and shoulders above all his Canadian con- 
temporaries in capacity, was, like Baldwin, emphatically 
a Whig rather than a Radical. A member of the old 
Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada in his twenties, 
he had ardently supported Papineau's strongest de- 
mands, but had opposed any resort to arms, and on the 
failure of the rebellion, his compatriots turned unan- 
imously to his prudent and sober leadership. Massive 
in intellect, cold and judicial in temperament, thorough 
and untiring in his habits of work, Napoleonic in phy- 
sique the story ran that on his visit to Paris, the guards 
at the Invalides, in great excitement, presented arms to 

55 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

their resurrected emperor, not greatly displeasing the 
Canadian visitor thereby LaFontaine dominated the 
political scene throughout the forties. But hardly had 
he taken power, in 1848, when a rift in the party ap- 
peared, and steadily widened until in disdain of factional 
quarrelling he retired from political life in 1851, at the 
age of forty-four. 

The group which chafed under LaFontaine's leader- 
ship, which later formed a distinct party called by them- 
selves the Democrats and by their enemies the Rouges, 
and which eventually became under Laurier the Que- 
bec wing of the Canadian Liberal party, was a strange 
product of many personal and social factors. Its first 
leader and rallying-centre was the old tribune, Louis 
Joseph Papineau. Returning to Canada in 1847 after 
a ten-years' exile, he had entered parliament the follow- 
ing year. Intercourse in Paris with republican and 
socialist circles had strengthened his democratic tenden- 
cies, though altering little his views on the economic 
ordering of society to the last he remained the seign- 
eur. l After a lifetime of uncompromising opposition 
and criticism, he found it difficult to accept the irksome 

i The influences to which Papineau was subjected in Paris are in- 
dicated in the notice contained in the last issue of "L'Avenir," January 
21, 1852, on the death, at twenty-one, of his son, Philippe Gustave Papineau: 
"With what eagerness he would tell us of his first impressions of life 
in raris! At the feet of JbJ6ranger or Lamennais he had heard a lan- 
guage at the time unintelligible, but which had left indelible impressions 
on his memory. Uood old Beranger he had seen, bent by age, at play 
under the trees of the garden, and going about harnessed to a little child's 
wagon. Intercourse with men like Stranger, Lamennais, Louis Blanc 
and other leaders of the republican party, who expressed freely among 
friends the opinions which were at the time suppressed on the platform 
and in the press, had helped to form in this young and impressionable 
heart the tendencies which family tradition had already stamped there." 

56 



THE POLITICAL SCENE 

responsibilities of a party in office; after a lifetime as un- 
questioned dictator of his people, he could not bend his 
proud spirit to accept the leadership of his former lieu- 
tenant. Doctrinaire, unchanging in the changing times, 
conscious of his powers and of his rectitude, he set him- 
self from the first in violent opposition to the opportun- 
ist and conservative measures and tactics of LaFon- 
taine, and never modified his position until his retire- 
ment from active politics in 1854. Around him there 
gathered a group of fiery young Montrealers, who have 
never had their like in Canadian politics for sheer abil- 
ity, crusading zeal, and reckless frankness Antoine 
Aime Dorion, Eric Dorion, Charles Laberge, Louis La- 
breche-Viger, Joseph Papin, Rodolphe Laflamme, Jo- 
seph Doutre, Charles Daoust, P. R. LaFrenaye, and 
scores of others destined to play an active part in pro- 
fessional or public life. They were all in their early 
twenties. Nearly all the leaders among them were 
lawyers or journalists, not too burdened with clients or 
commissions to be unable to give their time to set the 
world right. They had their full share of youth's heady 
impatience with the hesitations and compromises of the 
middle years, the indifference and conservatism of old 
age. ] They were temporarily elated by the sweeping 
success they had scored, on the platform and the streets, 
with argument and the clubs which often took the place 
of argument in those days of open polling and organ- 
ized political rioting, in assisting to carry to victory the 

* "In our century, he who keeps the middle path is shattered, he who 
does not go forward is crushed; it is the divine law of progress which 
decrees it so." "L'Avenir," Nov. 22, 1848. 

57 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

Liberal or LaFontaine candidates in Montreal in the 
general election of 1847. More enduring}/ they kin- 
dled to the call of the surging forces of democracy and 
nationalism in Europe, sympathizing deeply with the 
generous aims of the revolution against the accepted 
order which swept that continent in the memorable year 
of 1848. Canada was far geographically and farther 
mentally from the France of Louis Blanc and Ledru- 
Rollin, but the vigorous flame leaped the ocean and even 
bridged for a moment the gulf between the old France 
which had gone through three revolutions and the New 
France which still clung to seventeenth-century ways. 
The issues they urged were partly nationalist, partly 
democratic. When LaFontaine abandoned the demand 
for the repeal of the Union with Upper Canada which 
had been forced upon the French- Canadians, Papineau 
and his young Rouges took up the cry. When repeal 
appeared impossible, they called for at least the repre- 
sentation in parliament that Lower Canada's popula- 
tion warranted. Democracy of the French and Amer- 
ican patterns, with fixed term of parliament and ses- 
sions, universal suffrage and elective officials; decen- 
tralization of political power and judicial activities; 
demands foreshadowing the recall, and safeguarding the 
independence of parliament by forbidding members to 
accept office within a year of occupying a seat in the 
House; freer trade, economical administration, the de- 
velopment of agriculture, the widest possible expansion 
of education; the abolition of all class and ecclesiastical 
privilege the seigneur's dues, the priest's tithes, the 

58 



THE POLITICAL SCENE 

Protestant Clergy Reserves, were the other more im- 
portant planks in their platform. A little later they 
joined the disappointed Tories in urging annexation to 
the United States, though in a few years this demand 
faded from their banners. 1 Altogether a programme 
well calculated pour epater les bourgeois. 

The eager, reforming spirit of these democratic youths 
found more than one expression. The first outlet was 
the famous "Institut Canadien" founded in December, 
1844, as a means of mutual education. The institute 

i OUK POLITICAL CREED 

L'Avenir, Jan. 4, 1850. 
Education as wide-spread as possible. 
Agricultural improvement: establishment of model farms. 
Colonization of waste lands available for the poorer classes. 
Free navigation of the St. Lawrence. 
Free trade as far as possible. 

Judicial reform; decentralization of the judiciary; codification of laws. 
Postal reform; free circulation of newspapers. 

Less extravagant administration of the government than at present; re- 
duction of salaries in all branches of the public service and of the 

number of employees. 

Municipal organization based on the parish; decentralization of power. 
Elective institutions everywhere elective governor, elective legislative 

council, elective magistrates; all the heads of public departments made 

elective. 

Electoral reform based on population. 
Universal suffrage. 

Eligibility for office dependent on the confidence of the people. 
Summoning and length of parliamentary sessions fixed by law. 
Every representative of the people forbidden by a special law to accept 

any remunerative office from the Crown during the exercise of his 

mandate and for one year after its expiry. 
Abolition of seigniorial tenure. 
Abolition of the tithing system. 
Abolition of Protestant Clergy Reserves. 
Abolition of the system of state pensions. 
Abolition of the privileges of lawyers, and liberty granted every man to 

defend his own cause. 

Equal rights, equal justice for all citizens. 
The repeal of the Union. 
Finally and above all; Independence of" Canada and its annexation to the 

United States. 

59 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

provided for its members a library and reading-room, 
public lectures, and an open forum for debates. 1 It met 
a need which hitherto had been wholly neglected, and 
exercised wide influence in Montreal and in other centres 
where similar institutes were soon established, until a 
long and bitter struggle with the Church brought dis- 
sension and defeat. A club modelled on the latest 
Parisian political organizations, Le Club National et 
Democratique, had a much shorter career. To reach 
the general public they took over, in January, 1848, a 
struggling weekly, "L'Avenir," which another group, 
more interested in literature than in politics, had estab- 
lished a few months earlier. With Eric Dorion as edi- 
tor, and Labreche-Viger, Doutre, Durandan, Daoust, 
Laflamme, V. P. W. Dorion and Papin collaborating, 
"L'Avenir" had a brilliant if brief career, tilting fear- 
lessly against every personage and every institution 
which stood in the path of young democracy, and if not 
converting the community as rapidly as had been hoped, 
at least giving its editors the joy of work and sacrifice 
and free expression. When, in January, 1852, scanty 
finances and the solid opposition of the clergy forced 
"L'Avenir" to discontinue, its place as the organ of the 
democratic Liberals was taken by the more sober and 
conventional "Le Pays," under the editorship of Louis 
Labreche-Viger and L. A. Dessaulles. Finally, a 

i"A rallying point for the young men of Montreal, an arena of com- 
petition, where every young man making his entry into the world could 
come and be inspired with pure patriotism, improve his mind by making 
use of the advantages of a common library, and become accustomed to 
speaking by taking part in the deoating open to all sorts and conditions 
of men." "L'Annuaire de 1'Institut," 1852. 

60 



THE POLITICAL SCENE 

political party took shape, and found representation in 
parliament. In the election of 1851, five Rouges were 
returned, and in 1854 nearly twenty. After Papineau 
retired, A. A. Dorion became their leader. 

The situation presented by the union of the two 
provinces, the break-up of the old parties and the rise 
of new groups, afforded an admirable opportunity to a 
master strategist. In each section of the province there 
was found a centre party of moderate Liberals, with a 
radical and a conservative wing in each case. Early in 
the fifties George Brown believed it would be possible to 
unite all the Upper Canada factions on a platform of 
resistance to French- Canadian and priestly domination, 
but a greater strategist than Brown was at work. John 
A. Macdonald, realizing the essentially conservative 
character of the French-Canadians, sought to form a 
coalition of the moderate Liberals in both provinces with 
what was left of the Conservative or Tory parties. 
Joining forces with George Etienne Cartier, the most 
vigorous personality among the Lower Canada 
members, he succeeded in forming an enduring coalition 
which eventually fused into a coherent party. In 
Upper Canada it retained for the next two generations 
a name which betokened its origin, the Liberal- Conser- 
vative party, but in Lower Canada "Liberal" faded out 
of name and policy, and this wing was frankly known 
as the Conservative party, or, in contrast to the 
"Rouges," as the "Bleus." 

Perforce the radical parties in the two sections of the 
province, thus left in opposition, stood together. They 
shared in common many tendencies in political and 

61 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

economic policy, but during the Union period they never 
united as closely as their rivals. It is perhaps easier for 
defenders of the status quo to hold together enduringly 
than for reformers who differ as to what corner of the 
old structure should be overturned first. In any case, 
the fact that the demand for doing away with Lower 
Canada's equality of representation in parliament and 
opposition to "French and priestly domination" soon be- 
came the chief planks in the platform of Brown and the 
Upper Canada Reformers, made it very difficult for a 
Lower Canada party to work with them and impossible 
for it, if it did, to attain a majority in its own section. 
For ten years after its formation in 1854, the Liberal- 
Conservative party retained power, except for two brief 
intervals. Yet as the years advanced, its margin of 
power vanished. Brown had not been able to unite the 
parties of Upper Canada under his own leadership, but 
he came near to uniting the electors of Upper Canada. 
The Reformers won seat after seat in the West, leaving 
Macdonald in a hopeless minority in his own section, 
more and more dependent upon the solid cohorts which 
followed his colleague, Cartier. At last the two parties, 
and, what was more serious, the two sections of the 
province, stood deadlocked. Neither could attain a se- 
cure or adequate majority, and the personal bitterness 
and intrigue, the wide-spread corruption, and the naked 
sectional controversy which resulted, made a change im- 
perative. The Union experiment had, indeed, greatly 
improved the situation that existed in 1837, thanks to 
the solvent power of liberty, but it had not secured com- 
plete success. The relations between the colony and the 

62 



THE POLITICAL SCENE 

mother country and between the two races in Canada 
itself had bettered, but neither the harmonizing of East 
and West nor the stability of parties which were essen- 
tial for its success had been attained. A real feder- 
ation, which would give each section control of the mat- 
ters most closely affecting it and yet retain common 
action in affairs of common interest, became inevitable. 
The issue of Confederation had not originally been a 
party matter. Its first effective advocate had been one 
of the Liberal-Conservative leaders, A. T. Gait, but 
Macdonald himself always opposed a wider union ex- 
cept on the unattainable and unworkable basis of legis- 
lative or organic union, and voted against a federation 
motion a few hours before the fall of his government 
in 1864 opened his eyes to the need of changed tactics, 
if the province was to be saved from futile wrangling 
and his government kept in power. On the other hand, 
the Rouges, who had been the first party to propose, 
in 1856, a solution of the difficulties of the time by mak- 
ing Canada a federation of two distinct provinces, op- 
posed a union of all the British North American prov- 
inces in which Lower Canada would be overwhelmed. 
The outcome of the forcing of the Confederation issue, 
so far as party fortunes were concerned, was a further 
strengthening of the Liberal-Conservative ranks. 
Brown and the majority of his followers joined Mac- 
donald, Cartier and Gait in a coalition to carry Con- 
federation, while the Rouges, with a few Canada West 
Reformers such as Malcolm Cameron and Sandfield 
Macdonald, and a few Conservatives such as Hillyard 
Cameron in the West and Christopher Dunkin in the 

63 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

East, took up the same attitude of opposition which 
Joseph Howe maintained with more support in Nova 
Scotia. The coalition did not prove lasting; before 
Confederation was enacted Brown was out of the cabinet 
in which he found himself far from master, and though 
a few Liberal leaders from each province joined forces 
with Macdonald, they carried with them little popu- 
lar support and soon faded into the Conservative party. 
Confederation began with a Conservative or Liberal- 
Conservative government firmly entrenched in the ad- 
ministration not only of the new Dominion, but of the 
provinces of Ontario and Quebec, into which the old 
province of Canada had been divided. 

It was not, then, from any desire to float with the 
tide that Wilfrid Laurier became an active member 
of the Liberal or Rouge party of Canada East. Nor 
was it from any temperamental sympathy with the ex- 
treme views and tendencies which had marked that party 
at its beginning. Laurier, like Dorion, was ever more 
of the Whig than of the Radical, moderate, judicial, 
respectful of precedent, aware of the difficulty of ef- 
fecting sudden reforms that would be lasting. Yet 
Dorion and Laurier were in turn leaders of this most 
aggressively democratic party. The paradox is only 
seeming. Both men joined the party in their teens, 
when they had their share of youth's boundless hopes 
and sweeping judgments, and both in later years guided 
their followers into more moderate ways. And par- 
ticularly when Wilfrid Laurier became a member, the 
party had thrown overboard most of its youthful indis- 
cretions though kind friends always insisted on en- 

64 




A STREET IN L'ASSOMPTION 




THE HILLS OF ARTHABASKA 



THE POLITICAL SCENE 

deavouring to restore the abandoned political baggage. 
They had ceased to attack the priest's tithe or to call for 
annual parliaments or elective governors, and the an- 
nexationist sympathies they had shared with Montreal 
Tories had faded away under the influence of the pros- 
perity reciprocity helped to ensure, and observation of 
the troubles which slavery and the struggle as to States' 
rights were bringing upon the republic. But there re- 
mained a solid core of doctrine with which Laurier, like 
Dorion, was deeply and vehemently in sympathy. A 
passion for individual freedom and constitutional lib- 
erty, an abiding faith in the power of the people to 
work out their own salvation, were the moving forces of 
their political activity throughout the careers of both 
men, and made it inevitable that they would align them- 
selves with the party which, whatever its vagaries, did 
stand clearly for the fundamentals of liberalism. 

Political ideals, forms of government, parties and 
party traditions, were not the only political inheritance 
which Confederated Canada received from the Canada 
of the Union era. The racial issue, the problem of con- 
tending nationalities, was an inescapable heritage, shap- 
ing and conditioning political activity at every turn. 
Canada had its full share of the nineteenth-century 
surge of racial and nationalist feeling, and of the prob- 
lems of adjustment which it involved. 

The fundamental fact in the political life of Canada 
was the existence side by side of two peoples differing 
in creed, in speech, in blood and in all the traditions 

65 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

that make up national consciousness. With the Con- 
quest, as has been seen, Britain's first policy was that 
of out-and-out assimilation. The policy might have 
succeeded. In the eighteenth century the fires of na- 
tionalism had not begun to flare. The ordained leaders 
of the people had largely returned to France. The 
habitant had little love and less regret for the corrupt 
and oppressive administration which had marked the last 
years of the French regime. A substantial measure 
of success was attained in the first dozen years of British 
rule, in breaking down the allegiance of the people to 
the laws, the seigniorial ordering of society, and, accord- 
ing to Maseres, even to the Church and the other institu- 
tions which sheltered and preserved racial consciousness. 
But suddenly the old policy was reversed, and Carleton's 
plan of confirming and isolating French-Canadian na- 
tionalism as a barrier against the tide of democracy and 
rebellion setting in from the south was put into force. 
After the Revolution, the situation changed 
once more, and with it changed British policy. The old 
colonies had now seceded ; there was no further occasion 
to shape a policy for their retention. The St. Lawrence 
valley, resigned under Carleton's plan as a permanent 
home for French-speaking colonists, now became, with 
Nova Scotia, the only outlet on the continent for Eng- 
lish-speaking citizens who wished to remain under the 
British flag. Loyalists from the United States, and, 
later, British immigrants from overseas, poured in by 
tens of thousands, and forced the granting of a measure 
of self-government. The British government was still 

66 



THE POLITICAL SCENE 

prepared to stand by the bargain made with the French- 
Canadians in the Quebec Act, their Magna Charta, and 
when the Constitutional Act was passed in 1791 Gren- 
ville magnanimously and modestly affirmed the inten- 
tion to "continue to the French inhabitants the enjoy- 
ment of those civil and religious rights which have been 
secured to them by the capitulation of the Province, or 
have since been granted by the liberal and enlightened 
spirit of the British Government." But soon a change 
came. The memory of 1774 gradually faded, the Eng- 
lish-speaking minority in Lower Canada became more 
insistent, and above all, the wars with Napoleon made 
France and democracy anathema in England. When 
the French-Canadian representatives in the Assembly, 
quickly learning the possibilities of their half -measure 
of liberty, demanded full self-government, they were 
met with blank refusal. After years of petition and 
inquiry and debate, British statesmanship could rise no 
further than the imperious insistence of Russell in 1837, 
backed by an almost unanimous parliament, that neither 
responsible government nor an elective legislative 
council could be permitted in a colony, and his action in 
authorizing the governor to take needed funds out of 
the provincial treasury without the Assembly's consent. 
Rebellion followed; the Assembly was suspended; a 
second rebellion broke out, again to be put down. 

Writing in the calm retrospect of two generations 
later, Mr. Laurier thus summed up the struggle: 

The struggle thus begun continued throughout the fifty 
years that the constitution of 1791 endured. Pitt had ex- 

67 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

pressed the hope that the -ma j orit j would govern. During the 
fifty years that the constitution of 1791 was in force, the real 
government of the country was exercised by the English minor- 
ity in despite of the French majority. During the fifty years 
of the constitution of 1791, the Assembly struggled and 
struggled in vain to secure the most elementary powers of a 
representative body. The right to choose its president freely 
was vigorously contested ; the right to protect its independence 
was long disputed ; the right to control public expenditure was 
constantly refused. Each claim -that it made, each remon- 
strance against an abuse, each insistence on an unrecognized 
right, each assertion of a principle which had been violated, 
was the occasion, in the body of the Assembly, of bitter 
struggles with the minority, followed by violent conflicts with 
the oligarchy. As soon as the decision of the Assembly was 
rejected by the Council, the session would be suddenly pro- 
rogued in the dissenting chamber, by the governor, acting at 
the instigation of his officials. 

The struggles of the Assembly each day extended farther 
among the different sections of the people. 

The inhabitants of the Anglo-Saxon race, who everywhere 
else would have taken the initiative in the reforms demanded 
by the Assembly, formed an alliance with the oligarchy, which 
became closer each day. They persuaded themselves, and each 
day were more convinced, that the principles insisted upon by 
the Assembly hid so many thoughts of treason. Their anxious 
devotion to the Crown made them believe that the least 
authority conceded to the Assembly would be employed by it 
to further the independence of the colony. They did not sus- 
pect that by fear of rebellion, they themselves were provoking 
rebellion. 

All the men of Anglo-Saxon birth in the province formed be- 
fore long a compact group, from the governor to the least of 
the sailors whom the hazards of an adventurous life had brought 
to the port of Quebec. / 

National feeling was equally stirred up among the French 
population. The cause of the Assembly became the cause 
of the entire race. The principles that it affirmed, the rights 

68 



THE POLITICAL SCENE 

that it insisted upon, the whole race affirmed and insisted upon 
with an emotion that was at the same time enthusiasm and 
anger. These principles and these rights were in fact synony- 
mous with the preservation of the French race. 

Scorn, hostility and hate developed, deepened, became ever 
more and more intense ; conflicts between the Assembly and the 
Executive grew more and more frequent, and each conflict was 
reflected with an ever-increasing intensity in each element of 
the population. When rebellion broke out, although there 
were found Canadians on the side of the English and English 
among the Canadians, the rebellion was the explosion of ra- 
cial hate. 

The rebellion forced attention and a measure of con- 
cession to the demand for self-government. It did not 
advance the cause of French- Canadian nationalism. 
On the contrary, advantage was taken of the suspension 
of the Assembly and the discrediting of the Patriote 
cause to revert once more fully and frankly to the policy 
of anglicizing the whole province. The more extreme 
leaders of the English minority called for the permanent 
disenfranchisement of the French-Canadians. Lord 
Durham was equally insistent as to the end, if some- 
what more moderate as to the means. There could be 
no peace, he insisted, while the two nationalities stood 
opposed. There could be no question that in the long 
run the progressive, enterprising, numerous English- 
speaking people would dominate all North America, and 
that the French- Canadian people, hopelessly inferior 
in wealth and culture and numbers, "a people with no 
history and no literature," would be absorbed, to their 
own good. Therefore, the sooner the better. It must 
"be the first and steady purpose of the British govern- 

69 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

ment to establish an English population, with English 
laws and language, in this Province, and to trust its 
government to none but a decidedly English legisla- 
ture"; the "nationality of the French-Canadians" must 
be "obliterated." * 

Mr. Laurier condemns Durham's policy and defends 
his character; incidentally he explains, in a passage 
remarkable equally for its insight and its detachment, 
the influence of the struggle of the French-Canadians 
to preserve their nationality, upon their material 
fortunes : 

The man who used this harsh language was not an enemy of 
the race whose annihilation he thus advised. Neither was he 
one of those unbending spirits who reckon human life and all 
that may make it precious as of small account, when the at- 
taining of a desired result is at stake. The name of Lord Dur- 
ham has always been held in execration among French-Cana- 
dians since the day when the sentence he had delivered upon 
their national existence was made known. They believed then 

i Durham's prescription erred, but his diagnosis was acute. In a secret 
and confidential despatch to Lord Glenelg on August 9, 1838, recently 
deposited in the Canadian Archives, he is frank in his discussion of the 
real issues behind the constitutional struggle and the rebellion r "The 
truth is that, with exceptions which tend to prove the rule, all the Brit- 
ish are on one side and all the Canadians are on the other. ... It ap- 
pears upon a careful review of the political struggle between those who 
have termed themselves the loyal party and the popular party, that the 
subject of dissension has been, not the connection with England, nor the 
form of the constitution, nor any of the political abuses which have af- 
fceted all classes of the people, but simply such institutions, laws and 
customs as are of French origin, which the British have sought to over- 
throw and the Canadians have struggled to preserve. . . . The consequent 
rebellion, although precipitated by the British from an instinctive sense of 
the danger of allowing the Canadians full time for preparation, could not, 
perhaps, have been avoided . . . Their [the British inhabitants'] main ob- 
ject ... has been ... to substitute, in short, for Canadian institutions, 
laws and practices, others of a British character. In this pursuit they 
have necessarily disregarded the implied, not to say precise, engagement 
of England, to respect the peculiar institutions of French Canada." 

TO 






THE POLITICAL SCENE 

that Her Majesty's High Commissioner was narrow-minded, 
and that he had sacrificed the sentiments of justice to race 
prejudice. This impression, caused by the painful emotion 
that the publication of his report produced, has not been re- 
moved. Nothing, however, is further opposed to the truth; 
impartial history must give a different verdict. Lord Durham 
was generous, a man of supremely liberal spirit. A disciple of 
Fox, he had like him an innate sympathy for the cause of the 
weak and the oppressed. He had been one of the champions of 
the emancipation of the Catholics. He had been one of the 
authors of electoral reform, and had striven for its accomplish- 
ment rather with the passion of an apostle than the calm reso- 
lution of a statesman. He was one of the most ardent in that 
ardent school of reformers who, after the Napoleonic wars, 
undertook to root out of the soil of old England the laws of 
privilege and caste, and to put within reach of the poorest 
classes, the benefits of civilization and liberty. 

It may seem strange that a man of these opinions should in 
cold blood have counselled the annihilation among a whole peo- 
ple of all that it held most dear. Lord Durham himself has 
given the explanation, by setting forth deductions which events 
have fortunately disproved, but whose logic at the time it 
seemed hardly possible to dispute. To his mind it was im- 
possible that the two races could live in harmony on the same 
soil. Until one or the other should have disappeared, all hope 
of peace was an illusion, and since either one or the other had 
to disappear, the lot had to fall on the weaker, on the French 
race. Lord Durham devoted the greater part of his report to 
discussing this question, which he examined (from every angle, 
and which he solved precisely, fundamentally, like a problem in 
mathematics. If he advised the British government not to hesi- 
tate to sacrifice the French race, it was not out of hostility to 
that race, of which he spoke in sympathetic terms ; it was be- 
cause such was the fatal decree of necessity. 

Lord Durham indicated the means with no less precision: 
namely, to overwhelm the French population in an English 
majority. But as the population of British origin was less 
numerous than the French population, within the limits of 

71 




LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

Lower Canada, the quickest and most effective policy was to 
join the province of Upper Canada and that of Lower Canada 
under the same government, and by uniting the total number of 
the British population of Upper Canada with the British minor- 
ity of Lower Canada, to form in the united Canada a majority 
of the English element against the French element. 

As to the effect of this form of government on the French 
population, he considered that it would facilitate the realiza- 
tion of the homicidal idea he set forth as indispensable to the 
peace of the colony. He calculated that the French race would 
be reduced to powerlessness by "the vigorous arm of a popular 
legislature"; that everything that constituted its autonomy 
would disappear slowly but surely, simply by the force of the 
majority, unless it itself entered resolutely on the path of ab- 
sorption in order to have its legitimate part in the new state 
of things. At bottom, Lord Durham's policy did not differ 
from the policy of the oligarchy. It differed only in means. 
He did not propose to molest the French race or to take away 
its autonomy by force. He did not propose to take away its 
political rights. He proposed to place it in a position numer- 
ically inferior and to make the exercise of its political rights 
of no avail. His plan was to have it governed legally by a 
majority just as it had previously been governed illegally by 
a minority, to substitute legal tyranny for illegal tyranny, and 
to force the French-Canadians, if they wished to escape from 
it, to renounce their national character. 

There is nothing in Lord Durham's report to show that he 
ever, even once, dreamed what cruelty his policy involved. 
Rather, this idea which to us appears cruel, reveals his philan- 
thropic character. Taking his stand on purely utilitarian 
grounds, he persuaded himself that the obvious interests of the 
French race demanded its extinction. It is not extermination 
that he advises, it is progressive, systematic absorption of one 
element into another. In remaining what it is, the French 
race must become more and more isolated on the American con- 
tinent, and consequently fall into a state of material and moral 
inferiority ; absorbed into the British element, it takes its place 
in the advancement, the wealth, the high degree of civilization 

72 



THE POLITICAL SCENE 

that the numerical preponderance of this great race assures 
it on the continent. 

These considerations, in the eyes of a humanitarian like Lord 
Durham might appear decisive, but could a patriot like Lord 
Durham forget how they would wound the self-respect of a 
proud people? 

The reflection that the preservation of the national in- 
dividuality of the French-Canadians exposed them to being out- 
distanced perhaps did not lack truth. 

It cannot be denied that the French-Canadians, in the pres- 
ervation of their national existence, have absorbed a fund of 
activity, energy, and force, which the rival races, free from 
this preoccupation, have utilized for their material advance- 
ment. But such was the pride of the French people that they 
wished to remain what they were. Since the Conquest every 
other consideration had been subordinated to this. They 
had pride in their origin, in their traditions, history, and in- 
dividuality, and the efforts, the struggles and the sacrifices 
that this sentiment had cost them should have been sufficient to 
inspire in a generous soul, a higher thought than regard 
simply for their material existence. 

But Lord Durham, although a friend of liberty, did not 
realize its full power. 

Sydenham and his backers in London and Canada, 
blind as Durham himself to the powers of resistance in- 
herent in nationalism, tried to carry this policy into 
force. Union was enacted to give an English-speaking 
majority in the new province. All official electoral and 
parliamentary proceedings were to be in English. 
Though Lower Canada far outnumbered Upper Can- 
ada, it was given only the same number of representa- 
tives in the provincial assembly. When the elections 
were held, Sydenham exhausted all the efforts of official 
pressure, corruption and violence to prevent the French- 

73 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

Canadian electorate securing a fair proportion of the 
seats assigned to Lower Canada, and endeavoured to 
ignore altogether such French-Canadian members as 
were elected. Mr. Laurier declares : 

It was the imposition of the will of the stronger the vce 
victis. The French race had to disappear; it must be grad- 
ually swallowed up, buried in quicksand, without commotion, 
without violence, but by the regular, normal, inflexible, irre- 
sistible action of an external and ever-increasing majority. 

The French-Canadians made vain appeals to the generosity, 
to the justice of the mother country. At the same time they 
tried all the constitutional methods that the suspension of the 
constitution left at their disposal: protests, petitions, resolu- 
tions adopted in public assemblies. These useless appeals, 
which remained unanswered, finally exasperated the people. 
Perhaps never had the British domination been more detested 
than at this time. The bloody vengeance visited upon the in- 
surgents, the countrysides laid waste by fire, the pitiless exe- 
cutions, the deportations by the hundred, did not show so much 
cruelty, in the eyes of the vanquished, helpless people, as the 
cold-blooded determination to take away from it the national 
character that was its whole pride. 

The programme of Durham and Sydenham and their 
backers in the English-speaking minority, on its racial 
side, proved a complete failure: 

Union and liberty produced all the good that Lord Durham 
expected, without realizing the evil that he had foreseen in it. 

The new institutions were found to be broad enough for the 
two races who had been enemies to live and grow together with- 
out fusion and without friction. 

The French-Canadian people, disheartened for the 
moment, soon rallied. Under LaFontaine they found 
a determined and skilful leader. Their representatives 

74 



THE POLITICAL SCENE 

in parliament held together, for the first few years, in a 
solid block. The efforts of governors and ministers to 
detach a few of their leading men proved unavailing; 
any individual who stood out from his people committed 
political suicide. Soon these tactics forced conces- 
sions in a parliament of divided parties. In 1844 a 
unanimous resolution passed the Assembly advocat- 
ing the recognition of French as an official language, 
and four years later the British parliament assented. 
The year 1849 saw the establishment in office of a strong 
administration with a French-Canadian premier, and 
the passing of a measure to recompense those who had 
suffered loss in the rebellion, barring only men con- 
victed in court of open rebellion. The English-speak- 
ing minority protested vigorously, the more irrespon- 
sible element burning the parliament buildings and 
stoning the governor-general for assenting to such a 
measure, the more substantial leaders turning to annexa- 
tion, determined, as Durham had prophesied, to remain 
'English, at the expense, if necessary, of not being Brit- 
ish." But the protest was in vain: the policy of ascend- 
ancy and of anglicization had failed. 

At this point a divergence appeared in the ranks of the 
French-Canadians. Papineau wished to undo the 
wrong of coerced union, to revert to the isolation of the 
Lower Canada of his earlier days. LaFontaine aban- 
doned the demand for repeal of the Union and insisted 
that the legitimate aspirations of French-Canadians 
could be satisfied under the existing constitution: the 
Union must be judged not by the purposes of its 

75 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

founders but by the achievements of those who actually 
administered it. The Rouges' adoption of Papineau's 
insistence on an extreme and isolated nationalism was 
curiously tempered by the actual co-operation with the 
English-speaking Tories of Montreal and the Eastern 
Townships, and by the potential relations with the Eng- 
lish-speaking people across the border, which their tem- 
porary conversion to the policy of annexation involved. 
It was significant that after the rise of the annexation 
movement "L'Avenir" dropped from its programme the 
clause which had previously headed the list, Canadien- 
franpais avant tout. 

The alliance of Baldwin and LaFontaine and later 
of Macdonald and Cartier, and the common interest in 
railway development and general economic expansion 
counted for much in bringing the two races together. 
Yet there remained two seemingly insuperable obstacles 
to harmony the system of government and the colonial 
status. 

So long as every detail regarding either section of 
the province had to be dealt with by a house containing 
an equal number of representatives from the other sec- 
tion, friction, and cries of unwarranted interference, of 
"French domination" or of "English tyranny" were 
certain to arise. Only by a federal solution could the 
most contentious issues be assigned to local legislatures 
and united action still secured in matters of joint con- 
cern. 

So long, again, as Canada remained a subordinate 
and dependent colony, it was hopeless to expect any 

76 



THE POLITICAL SCENE 

solution of the racial issue. The people as yet con- 
sidered themselves English, Irish, Scotch, French, or 
at most "Canadien" or French-Canadian, not Cana- 
dians. The English-speaking peoples in Canada, by 
their kinship with the dominant power overseas, were in 
a different political position from their French-speak- 
ing compatriots. To the majority of the English- 
speaking peoples the old country was still "home." 
This was not true in the case of the French-Canadians. 
They were longer rooted in the soil. Even under the 
French regime, it has been seen, fresh immigration was 
extraordinarily scanty. After the Conquest immigra- 
tion from France ceased wholly. The ties were not 
year by year renewed. Still more effective in breaking 
off all connection was the growth of revolutionary and 
anti-clerical sentiment in France. The revolution of 
J 93 had created a great gulf between old France and 
New France. The Canadian clergy sought to keep their 
flock free from the slightest contact with a people who 
scorned all legitimate authority or bowed to upstart 
dictators. The British government and the Roman 
Catholic Church, each for its own ends, did their best 
for generations to hold Canada aloof, and it was not 
surprising that they succeeded. Such sympathy with 
France as survived was naturally more common in radi- 
cal than in conservative circles, but except in the out- 
burst of democratic fervour of the late forties, when 
Papineau linked Paris and Montreal together, here also 
it was a weak and transient force. 1 The habitant had 

iThe viewpoint of the young Rouges in their halcyon days is brought 

77 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

ceased to be French; he had not become English; he was 
Canadien. 

When Wilfrid Laurier entered politics, the issue of 
nationalism had again been brought to the front by the 
discussion of Confederation. His Rouge friends were 
opposing Confederation on the ground that it would 
mean the overwhelming of the French-Canadians in an 
English-speaking mass and on other grounds, of which 
not the least important was that their political rivals 
were supporting it. Durham had failed to obliterate 
French- Canadian nationality by uniting another prov- 
ince with Lower Canada; now Brown and Macdonald 
and Cartier and Gait were proposing the experiment of 
uniting five English-speaking provinces with the one 
French-speaking section. Cartier and his friends, on 
the other hand, insisted that by restoring a separate 
legislature to Lower Canada, a legislature which would 
have control over all the matters of intimate concern, 
they were immensely strengthening the French- Ca- 
nadian position. Laurier did not at first disassociate 
himself from these sectional views. In "Le Defricheur" 
he echoed the criticism, which had no small measure of 
truth, that Brown desired Confederation as a means of 

out in this eloquent apostrophe of V. P. W. Dorion at a banquet given 
to the collaborators of "L'Avenir," August 26, 1848, in proposing the toast, 
le peuple Canadien: ". . . . France, our ungrateful mother, yet whom we 
always love in spite of the wrong she has done us, because it is she who 
cared for us in our childhood, it is from her we drew the strength needed 
to cross the ocean of difficulties which beset our childhood's path, it is she 
who fed us with the bread of wit and civilization, who taught us to pray 
God according to our holy and beautiful religion, who taught us to lisp 
the beloved tongue our fathers bequeathed to us and which we hold dearer 
than life." 

78 



THE POLITICAL SCENE 

lessening French-Canadian power, and that the Con- 
servatives, facing defeat in 1864, had conceded his de- 
mand as the price of retaining office. Lower Canada 
had no more interest in Nova Scotia than in Australia; 
the only tie that bound them was subjection to the com- 
mon colonial yoke. Confederation would prove the 
tomb of the French race. 

It was not long before his views had widened. The 
influence of his early associations in New Glasgow, the 
intercourse with the Scotch and English settlers in the 
Townships, his constant browsing in the classics of Eng- 
lish Liberalism, kindled his sympathies with his Eng- 
lish-speaking compatriots. His sympathy with his own 
people never lessened, but he came to see that their 
future lay not in isolation, nor, for that matter, in assim- 
ilation, but in full and frank partnership with their fel- 
low-Canadians. 

Unlike Howe, Dorion and Laurier accepted Con- 
federation, once accomplished, as an established fact. 
Very early Wilfrid Laurier came to see the possibilities 
it involved of solving the racial problem. From the 
outset of his parliamentary career, two principles guided 
his conduct in the endeavour which was always nearest 
his heart, to achieve union and harmony for all Canada. 
The first was to adhere faithfully to the guarantees of 
the federation compact, to refrain from federal inter- 
ference with provincial affairs, to respect the safeguards 
thrown around the rights and privileges of the minori- 
ties within each province. The other was to develop a 
common unhyphenated Canadian nationality, in which 

79 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

the older loyalties would be fused and blended, not com- 
pelling any man to forget the land of his fathers, but 
bringing all to put first the land of their sons. To 
quote one last word from his survey of the Union period: 

The sentiment of nationality was thus made secure. The 
ideal of each race was henceforth the progress of the common 
country, and the supreme pride of both, to proclaim themselves 
above all Canadian. 

In the early years of Wilfrid Laurier's career, a third 
issue divided interest with the reorganization of parties 
and the conflict of nationalities. The question of the 
relations of Church and State had its roots both in local 
conditions and in the European struggle between liberal- 
ism and ultramontism. In nineteenth-century Europe 
no country escaped violent controversy on this issue. 
In Canada, the close connection between Church and 
State which had existed from the beginning of the 
French regime, and the complications introduced by 
the sudden change of control at the Conquest, made the 
issue one of vital importance during both the Union and 
the Confederation period. There was no question with 
which Wilfrid Laurier was more intimately concerned 
from his first to his last day in public life, and none on 
which he impressed more enduringly the stamp alike of 
his courage and of his moderation. 

Upper Canada was fortunate in solving the most se- 
rious of its ecclesiastical conflicts relatively early. 
With the first organization of the province there had be- 
gun the endeavour to establish and endow the Church of 
England as a safeguard for faith and morals and a but- 

80 




LOUIS JOSEPH PAPINEAU 

Tribune of Lower Canada 

(1832) 



THE POLITICAL SCENE 

tress of state authority. The proposals met with little 
opposition so long as the Anglicans formed the great 
majority of the population. With the coming in large 
numbers of Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist and Ro- 
man Catholic settlers, the inevitable conflict began. 
The claims of the Church of England to receive as en- 
dowment vast areas of Clergy Reserves or Crown 
Lands, to monopolize the performance of the marriage 
ceremony, and to control university education, were 
fought with vigour and eventual success. The winning 
of self-government, and the growth of the dissentient 
denominations to an overwhelming majority in their 
turn, led to the speedy triumph of the forces which op- 
posed any union of Church and State. The appropria- 
tion in 1854 of the unallotted Clergy Reserves for edu- 
cational purposes marked the end of the dream of church 
establishment. The question revived in a new form 
with the setting up of Roman Catholic separate or de- 
nominational schools. For twenty years the contro- 
versy waged. The provincial Acts of 1855 and 1863 
accorded the Roman Catholics the right to establish 
separate schools, controlled by local boards of their own 
faith, subject to the supervision of the provincial depart- 
ment of education as to curriculum, teachers' qualifica- 
tions, and administration, and maintained by provincial 
grants and by local assessments on their supporters, who 
were exempted from taxes for maintenance of public 
schools. These concessions were bitterly fought by 
George Brown and his cohorts, but after 1863 the prin- 
ciple was definitely recognized and the issue of Church 

81 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

and State, while never wholly quiescent, receded into the 
background. 

Lower Canada could not so easily escape its difficul- 
ties. The difference in religion between the vast ma- 
jority of its people and the people not only of the United 
Kingdom but of the greater part of British North 
America, the breaking of relations with France, the con- 
tinuance and eventually the closer welding of relations 
with Rome and the consequent echoing of the contro- 
versies which divided Catholic Europe, all made a situa- 
tion full of difficulty for the statesman and often for the 
private citizen. 

Under the French regime the Church was a potent 
force. It could not be otherwise in a colony which for 
many a year was mainly a mission station and in which 
religious zeal throughout supplied a great part of the 
driving power. The Church provided and controlled 
school and hospital and refuge. It built up great ter- 
ritorial endowments: by the end of the French regime 
the Church owned the same proportion of the granted 
land of New France as of the land of old France one- 
fourth of the whole. The bishop shared control with 
governor and intendant. Mgr. Laval made and un- 
made governors and exalted the authority of Rome at 
the expense of that of the court of France. Yet in the 
later years its political if not its social power declined. 
The missionary motive faded. Frontenac fought 
bishop and Jesuit, rightly and wrongly, with success 
and with failure, but always with vigour, and after his 
day the superior power of the state authorities was 

82 



THE POLITICAL SCENE 

scarcely questioned. The ecclesiastical law of France 
and the Gallican liberties, setting bounds to papal inter- 
vention in the affairs of the national church, held sway 
in the colony, though the great Gallican charter of 1682 
was never formally registered in New France. 

Then came the conquest of Canada by a power mili- 

9 

tantly Protestant. The overthrow of the Roman Cath- 
olic Church appeared inevitable. The British authori- 
ties, it is true, promised freedom of worship, but with the 
saving qualification, "as far as the laws of Great 
Britain permit." While permitting the people to wor- 
ship at what altar they pleased, they endeavoured in 
every way to subordinate the Church to the State's au- 
thority, to refuse formal recognition to the bishop, to re- 
serve to the King the right of nominating parish priests, 
to break up the male clerical orders particularly the 
Society of Jesus, which the Pope himself suppressed in 
1773 to require permission from the governor before 
entering such order, to bar all but native Canadians from 
ecclesiastical office, and to throw open the churches for 
Anglican as well as for Catholic use. The Church of 
England was to take its place as the established body, 
as fast as governor and schoolmaster and parson could 
bring the people to the new way of thinking. 

The policy proved an utter failure. Before two gen- 
erations had passed, the Catholic Church in Canada had 
not only struck off the new shackles imposed on its free- 
dom of action but had become more independent and 
more powerful under the British than it had been under 
the French regime. 

83 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

One reason for the failure was that the policy was 
pressed only intermittently. With more persistence 
and fitter tools it might have won a measure of success. 
Maseres witnesses that in the first dozen years the pay- 
ing of tithes to the clergy fell rapidly into disuse. But 
policy wavered, and the Protestant clergymen sent out 
were too few and too weak to make any impression. 
The people cleaved to their ancient faith, and their 
clergy became every year a greater power in the land. 

The strength of the Church under alien rule had 
more than one source. First came the consideration 
that heretic rulers could not exercise the control over the 
Church which His Most Christian Majesty had exer- 
cised without running counter to every racial and relig- 
ious conviction ; when a French king disciplined a bishop 
it was a mere family quarrel; if an English king used 
half his sternness, the heather was afire. The Church, 
again, in the absence of other leaders, became the rally- 
ing-centre of nationalism, sheltering the people against 
the attempts made to assimilate them, and gaining 
strength from the people's enduring gratitude. 

But it was not merely with the people that the Church 
gained influence. It speedily came to terms with the 
government. The British authorities, once convinced 
that their own church could not prevail, were prepared 
to avail themselves of the power which did exist as an 
even more stable bulwark. The leaders of the Church 
met them half-way. A king was a king; '93 created a 
gulf between old France and New France ; the priest- 
hood after 1763 became almost wholly native-born, and 

84 



THE POLITICAL SCENE 

its national sentiment not French but French-Canadian. 
"Mgr. Briand," declared Mgr. Plessis, his successor in 
the bishopric of Quebec, in 1790, "had hardly seen the 
British arms placed over the gates of our city, before he 
perceived that God had transferred to England the 
dominion of the country ; that with the change of posses- 
sors our duties had changed their direction . . . and 
that religion itself might gain by the change of govern- 
ment." In one emergency after another, when British 
rule was threatened by external attack or internal re- 
volt, the Church gave its support to the throne, gave it 
gladly but not for naught. There was no vulgar bar- 
gaining between the honourable gentlemen who repre- 
sented the King and the distinguished prelates who 
served the Church, but the safeguarding of British in- 
terests and the recognition of the Church's claims syn- 
chronized. In 1774 the Quebec Act confirmed the 
Church's power to levy tithes; in 1775 bishop and priest 
exhorted their flocks to stand by the government and flee 
the wiles of the invading Bastonnais. During the war 
between Britain and France, revolutionary and anti- 
clerical France, British victories were celebrated by Te 
Deums in the cathedral at Quebec and the ban against 
the admission of French priests was raised. In the war 
of 1812 Mgr. Plessis issued vigorous pastorals calling on 
the people to fight for their old country and their new 
flag; after the war his right to official recognition as 
Bishop of Quebec and to a seat on the Legislative 
Council was recognized and his stipend from the British 
government increased to 1000 a year. Before the 

85 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

rebellion of 1837 Bishop Lartigue of Montreal issued 
a solemn mandement, quoting all that St. Peter and St. 
Paul had to say about fearing God and honouring the 
King and being subjected to the higher powers, and all 
that Gregory XVI had recently added "in condemna- 
tion of those who by schemes of sedition and revolt en- 
deavour to shake allegiance to Princes and hurl them 
from their thrones"; the Act of Union of 1841 struck 
hard at the political and nationalist claims of the French- 
Canadians, but left the Church untouched. 

The Church had now secured complete freedom. 
Not only was its worship untrammelled but its hierarchy 
was recognized, its property, except for the Jesuits' 
Estates, conserved, and its right of tithe given the force 
of law. The Fifth Council of the Church in 1850 
formally proclaimed this freedom: 'We rejoice to 
make the solemn declaration that in no country is the 
Church freer than in Canada," while the Archbishop of 
Quebec, Mgr. Baillargeon, a little later declared, 'We 
know no country where religion enjoys so great liberty 
and exercises a wider influence." Nor was its power 
merely legal and external. It held sway in the hearts 
of the people. Its teachings comforted them in distress, 
its ceremonies kindled their imagination, and its pastors 
were their most trusted friends and counsellors. 

Until after Union was effected there had been prac- 
tically no dissension within the Church itself. After 
the Union, and particularly after the winning of respon- 
sible government, controversy was frequent and vigor- 
ous. Two wings of opinion fought for the mastery. 

86 



THE POLITICAL SCENE 

The struggle took many forms controversies among 
the leaders of the Church themselves, conflicts between 
a section of the clergy and a small but active section of 
the laity, and finally, the warring of political parties. 
Many of these controversies concern directly only the 
student of ecclesiastical history, but others had a wider 
range, and have become part of the history of the 
country, as they were part of the lives of its political 
chieftains. 

The achievement of self-government itself hastened 
the rise of public controversy. Now that the freedom 
alike of the people and of the Church had been securely 
attained, there was less risk of internal dissension 
jeopardizing common ends. The triumph of democ- 
racy involved, further, a change of venue. When 
power lay with the governor and his circle, it was with 
the governor and his circle that bishops and vicars-gen- 
eral carried on their negotiations. When power came 
to rest with the people, the Church, in the New as in the 
Old World, naturally became vitally interested in the 
schools and the press that formed the electors' opinions, 
and in the parties and the elections through which their 
opinions found expression. 

The personal factor was important. Men of a new 
temper came to power, or power and freedom brought 
out qualities hitherto repressed. The tradition of 
leaders such as Mgr. Briand, Mgr. Plessis, Mgr. Hu- 
bert, firm in upholding the rights of their church, un- 
tiring in advancing its interests, but ruling their own 
people with easy rein and broadly tolerant toward those 

87 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

of other faiths, was continued by Mgr. Baillargeon, 
Archbishop of Quebec from 1867 to 1870, and his suc- 
cessor, Mgr. Taschereau, as well as the greater number 
of their colleagues. In Montreal the Sulpicians, the 
chief religious order, and in Quebec, Laval University 
and the Seminary, maintained the same tradition. But 
Mgr. Bourget, Bishop of Montreal from 1841 to 1876, 
and Mgr. Lafleche, his younger colleague in Three 
Rivers, were men of another mould, fiery crusaders, in- 
tolerant of difference, impatient of resistance, prepared 
to fight to the end rather than yield one jot or tittle of 
their authority or permit any slightest growth of inde- 
pendence among their flocks. 

In still greater measure, the controversies which de- 
veloped were manifestations of the world-wide conflict 
between authority and liberalism which had continued 

p 

without ceasing since the French Revolution, or echoes 
of its European phases. It was not until after Con- 
federation that the full effect of these European develop- 
ments was felt in Canada, but during the Union period 
their bearing was shown both in party conflict and in 
private controversy. Improvements in travel and com- 
munication brought the isolated provinces on the St. 
Lawrence within the range of European influence, at 
the same time that the changes which have been sur- 
veyed within the country itself had prepared a freer 
field for the exercise of the new tendencies. 

There had been in pre-Union days little attempt from 
within the ranks of the Church to question either its 
doctrines or its authority. Journals such as "Le Cana- 

88 



THE POLITICAL SCENE 

dieri" and "Le Liberal" which had made cautious steps in 
this direction had found little support and proved un- 
able to withstand the solid opposition of the clergy. 
Papineau, it was true, had early imbibed the doctrines 
of eighteenth-century deism, but he never sought to 
weaken the faith of his countrymen and showed deep 
respect for the customs and the leaders of the Church. 
Toward the end of the separate existence of Lower 
Canada, he and those behind him were feeling their 
way to question the Church's control over education. 
"Le Canadien" in 1835 had criticized the training given 
in the colleges under ecclesiastical direction, as in- 
adequate and impractical, failing to equip the French- 
Canadian to compete with his English-speaking rivals 
in business affairs, and had proposed that the Jesuits' 
Estates, confiscated by the Crown at the Conquest, 
should be utilized to establish under state control an edu- 
cation of more ample and practical scope. In the fol- 
lowing year Papineau proposed in the assembly that the 
Jesuits' Estates be handed over by the imperial authori- 
ties for educational purposes: "These estates," he con- 
tinued, "were granted exclusively for Catholics, for a 
French and Catholic posterity; from reasons of expe- 
diency and of justice, we are agreed that henceforth 
they should be available for the inhabitants of all races 
and all creeds, and, to avert jealousies, that theological 
studies should be excluded." The constitutional crisis 
soon drove these proposals from the stage, but they un- 
doubtedly had a share, which has not been adequately 
recognized, in determining the hostile attitude of the 

89 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

clergy to the radical reformers and to the rebellion into 
which they drifted or were driven. During the rebel- 
lion, more than one group of Patriotes issued manifestos 
protesting against the intervention of the clergy in 
political affairs and demanding that they should remain 
neutral in the conflict. ] 

The publication, in 1845-58, of the work which still 
remains the outstanding contribution of French-speak- 
ing Canada to scholarship and literature, F. X. Gar- 
neau's "Histoire du Canada," not only stimulated a 
new intellectual interest among the young men of the 
forties, but gave their interest a questioning bias by its 
mingling of frank criticism with sincere appreciation in 
its record of the work of the Church. The return of 
Papineau from his years of exile in the France where 
the revolution of 1848 was incubating provided a per- 
sonal link with the radicalism of the Seine. The new 
spirit found expression, as has been indicated previously, 
in the intellectual activities of L'Institut Canadien, 
the party organization of the Democrats or Rouges, 
and in the columns of "L'Avenir." * 

The editors of "L'Avenir" declared in their opening 
manifesto that as Democrats by conviction and French- 
Canadians by birth, they were pained to think : 'that 
the electric currents of democracy which are to-day giv- 

i Cf. " La Minerve," 30 Oct., 13 Nov., 16 Nov., 1837. 

i "It was in 1848 that the group of men imbued with the false and 
perverse principles termed 'the principles of '89,' appeared as a party in 
Canada, and it was at this time that, believing themselves strong enough 
to propagate and establish their doctrines and errors in our country, they 
founded the newspaper 'L'Avenir.'" Memoir of Mgr. Lafleche, 1881: 
cited in Savaete, "Vers 1'Abime," ii. 217. 

90 



THE POLITICAL SCENE 

ing new vigour to the civilized world, might be dis- 
sipated without effect here, for want of finding a con- 
ducting wire to the countries of the New World." It 
was mainly the literary heresies of Hugo and Lamartine 
and the political aspirations of the Democrats and Re- 
publicans of the Left which found entry by this route. 
Few references at first were made to religious affairs. 
Then in March, 1849, came word of the dethronement of 
the Pope as temporal sovereign and the proclamation of 
a short-lived republic in Rome. "L'Avenir" could not 
restrain its "enthusiasm over this glorious event," mak- 
ing it clear, however, that it was the fall of the Pope 
as king that was hailed, and that his spiritual authority 
was in no way weakened or attacked. Father Chiniquy, 
the apostle of temperance, fated later to desert the 
church of his fathers, took up the cudgels in defence 
of the temporal power, at first in good-tempered re- 
gret, later in strong denunciation. "L'Avenir" replied 
that long before the editorial on the fall of the temporal 
power, a notable part of the clergy had been waging 
war upon it purely because of opposition to its political 
views ; that it respected the clergy and was profoundly 
grateful for their services to education, but that they 
should confine themselves to the sphere of morals and 
religion; that when they ventured into politics it had 
always been to oppose democracy, and to support con- 
stituted authority. Later it cited the similar treatment 
meted out to Thomas D'Arcy McGee when in his New 
York journal, "The Nation," he had also ventured to 
criticize the temporal power. Letters in its columns, 

91 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

signed and unsigned, attacked churchly creeds and 
priestly conduct. In January, 1850, 'L'Avenir" began 
to question the tithes which the law authorized the 
clergy to levy, and added both "abolition of the tithing 
system" and "abolition of the Protestant Clergy Re- 
serves" to its formal programme : "a poorer clergy would 
be a better clergy." 

In November, 1849, "L'Avenir" proudly declared 
that it had survived "the most formidable, the best or- 
ganized, the most powerful persecution which could exist 
in Canada, the persecution of the majority of the Cath- 
olic clergy"; that after a war to the death it counted 
more adherents and more subscribers than ever; that it 
could not be crushed as "Le Canadien" had been twenty 
years and "Le Liberal" a dozen years before; "Thank 
Heaven, those times are gone, the reign of persecutors 
draws to its end in America, and 'L'Avenir' will survive 
its paid detractors as it will the various privileged orders 
which have an interest in extinguishing the light in order 
to keep our people in darkness and ignorance." The 
rejoicing was premature; on January 21, 1852, Eric 
Dorion was forced to announce, in bitterly disappointed 
but still courageous and uncompromising terms, that 
subscribers had fallen away and the journal could not 
continue. Clearly Quebec had little sympathy for a 
critic of the Church. "Le Pays," which took the place 
of "L'Avenir" as the Rouge organ in Montreal, re- 
frained from any attack on church creed or practice, 
confining itself to occasional protests against incursions 
of priests into politics, against "the crime of erecting the 

92 



THE POLITICAL SCENE 

altar side by side with the hustings." "Le National," 
of Quebec, followed the same discreet path. The 
journals of wider influence, the leading Conservative 
organ, "La Minerve," and Cauchon's "Le Journal de 
Quebec," were vigorously clerical in sympathies. The 
influence of '48 had faded. Not the Seine, but the 
Tiber, was to flow into the St. Lawrence. 

The Rouge group in the House of Assembly in the 
fifties incurred the hostility of the clergy by their at- 
titude on two questions the powers of religious com- 
munities and the control of the schools. Nearly every 
session witnessed a contest over the incorporation of 
some ecclesiastical order or institution. The Clear Grits 
opposed incorporation on any terms ; the Rouges usually 
supported the main proposals, but joined in questioning 
the right of such communities to hold in perpetuity 
lands of unlimited value. 1 Of more importance was the 
school question. The Rouges, after initiating and car- 
rying to a successful conclusion their demands for the 
abolition of the seigniorial system and the establish- 
ment of an elective upper house, turned to the better- 
ment of education as their main policy. They called for 
free elementary schools, liberally sustained by the pro- 
vincial government, uniform in type, progressive in 
curriculum, and open to all children irrespective of re- 

i "The Hon. M. de Boucherville understood perfectly the aim of the 
clergy in bringing some religious community here every year, when again 
and again he opposed in the House the granting of acts of incorporation 
to these communities. He realized how dangerous to the cause of liberty 
the accumulation of property in the hands of the clergy is, and his is the 
merit of having uttered the first cry of warning in parliament." Article 
in "L'Avenir," Jan. 18, 1850. 

93 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

ligious belief. Papin's motion in 1855 summed up this 
policy: 'To establish throughout the province a gen- 
eral and uniform system of free elementary education, 
maintained wholly at the cost of the State by means 
of a special fund created for that purpose; to make it 
possible to carry on this system in a just and effective 
manner, it will be necessary that all schools thus estab- 
lished should be open without discrimination to all chil- 
dren of school age, without exposing any, by the char- 
acter of the teaching given, to having their religious be- 
liefs or opinions assailed or injured in any manner." 
In presenting his motion this young Rouge declared: 
There can be no established religion, and if so, the state 
cannot in any fashion grant money for the teaching 
of any religious faith. The system of education in 
force hitherto has been far from satisfactory. What 
we need is a general system applicable to all sections of 
the province, which will bring about the disappearance 
of the prejudices of Catholics and Protestants alike. 
This was not practical politics in 1855: even in Upper 
Canada there were few supporters of uniform and free, 
to say nothing of secular, education. Action followed 
the other trend, of confirming and extending denomina- 
tional control, where desired, and the Rouge demands 
were very soon consigned to the legislative lumber- 
room. 

The criticisms of "L'Avenir" and the school and cor- 
porations programme of the Rouge party concerned the 
Church as a whole, and they could not complain if the 
overwhelming body of the clergy opposed their conduct. 

94 



THE POLITICAL SCENE 

In the case of the Institut Canadien, however, the ag- 
gression came from the other side; the quarrel was a 
more limited and personal affair, and the attitude of the 
chief figure in the controversy, Bishop Bourget, was 
very far from being endorsed by all his episcopal col- 
leagues. 

The Institut Canadien, it has been seen, was a 
literary club, organized in Montreal in 1844 for the pur- 
pose of providing the library and reading-room facilities 
which were conspicuously lacking in French-speaking 
Canada, and a forum for discussion and debate. It met 
with instant and enthusiastic success. Similar institutes 
were organized throughout the province; that was the 
day, it will be remembered, when Mechanics' Insti- 
tutes, public libraries, and popular lectures and lyceum 
courses were coming into popularity in English-speak- 
ing America. But their success was not long un- 
clouded. The same group of young Montrealers who 
edited 'L'Avenir" and organized the Rouge party led 
the debates and controlled the library and reading-room 
of the parent institute. It was not surprising that a 
section of the clergy came to look upon the institute 
with a very critical eye. The first hint of trouble came 
in 1850. Father Paul Chiniquy demanded that jour- 
nals which opposed the Pope's temporal power, and par- 
ticularly 'The Witness" and a French Protestant and 
proselytizing paper, "Le Semeur," should be excluded 
from the reading-room; others sought to bar from 
membership all but French- Canadians. Both pro- 
posals were rejected, but a few members seceded, and 

95 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

rival Instituts Nationaux were established throughout 
the province in the next two years under clerical aus- 
pices. Again, in 1852, when the Montreal institute 
sought to rent a building owned by the Seminary, per- 
mission was declined unless the offending newspapers 
were barred and the bishop's censorship of the library 
accepted. These terms were declined. The Quebec 
Institut Canadien proved more amenable; in 1852 it 
voted to exclude "L'Avenir" ; a motion was made in the 
Montreal institute to retaliate in coin by excluding the 
ultra-clerical "Journal de Quebec," but the proposal 
was overwhelmingly rejected as inconsistent with the 
liberty of discussion which was the issue at stake. The 
question smouldered until in 1858 the action of Bishop 
Bourget in condemning the institute for harbouring in 
its library dangerous and immoral books fanned it into 
flame. A section of the institute's members proposed 
to bow to his wishes by appointing a committee to ban 
all books to which objection was made. After a stormy 
debate, a declaration was adopted by a vote of 110 to 
88 to the effect that the institute's library did not con- 
tain and never had contained a single immoral book; 
and that it had always been and still was capable of 
judging of the morality of its library and of conducting 
its administration without the intervention of outside in- 
fluences. The minority at once seceded. Mgr. 
Bourget issued a pastoral condemning the majority for 
assuming to judge of the morality of their books, and 
for asserting that books which were on the Index Expur- 
gatorius were not immoral. Unless they rescinded their 

96 



THE POLITICAL SCENE 

action, no good Catholic could continue to belong to the 
institute, and its members became liable to excommuni- 
cation. 

When Wilfrid Laurier came to Montreal in 1860, the 
bishop and the institute were still at swords' points. 
The young student was not deterred by the fear of 
episcopal lightnings from joining the institute and 
taking an active part in its debates and its administra- 
tion. He became a vice-president in 1865, and again 
the following year, retiring from office only on the eve 
of his departure for L'Avenir. 1 

In October, 1863, the institute endeavoured to heal 
the breach. On the motion of Dr. Coderre, a committee 
consisting of himself and of Messrs. Dessaulles, Laurier 
and Joseph Doutre was appointed to "consider means 
of settling the difficulties which have arisen between His 
Grace the Bishop of Montreal and the Institute." This 
committee secured an interview with Mgr. Bourget. 
They were received with cordial courtesy and unyield- 
ing opposition; nothing but complete submission would 
avail. Later Dr. Coderre and M. Dessaulles waited 
upon His Grace, and left with him a catalogue of the 
library, asking him to indicate those books which he 

i Officers of L'Institut Canadien. May to November, 1866: 

President: J. Emery-Coderre 

First Vice-President: Wilfrid Laurier 

Second Vice-President: C. Alphonse Geoff rion 

Recording Secretary: Alphonse Lusignan 

Assistant Recording-Secretary: Zotique Labrecque 

Corresponding Secretary: Gonzalve Doutre 

Treasurer: Peter Henry 

Librarian: Nephthali Durand 

Assistant Librarian: Godefroi Papineau 

97 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

considered undesirable for general reading, undertaking 
to set these aside under lock and key, to be given to 
Catholic members of the institute only upon authori- 
zation of the president of the executive committee. Mgr. 
Bourget took the catalogue. Six months passed with- 
out response. Then M. Dessaulles sought an interview 
once more, only to be informed that while dangerous 
books had been found in the list, it was not considered 
that it would serve any useful purpose to indicate them. 
In March, 1864, in further token of the desire to avoid 
offense, the institute adopted a resolution declaring 

That the constitution of the Institut Canadien, while it 
does not take into consideration the religious creed of any of 
its members, does not thereby imply the denial of any truth or 
religious authority, and allows the personal responsibilities 
and duties of its members as regards their relation with estab- 
lished modes of worship to be maintained without interference ; 
that in order to set religious liberty as admitted in this institu- 
tion above conflict of any sort and to protect it from any un- 
pleasantness, it is essential to avoid carefully touching on or 
discussing any question which might wound the religious sus- 
ceptibilities of any of the members of this society; in con- 
sequence it would be desirable that no reading or discussion 
should be capable of giving rise to any complaint in this 
respect. 

In November, 1865, seventeen members of the insti- 
tute decided to appeal to Csesar. A petition was drawn 
up and despatched to the Sacred Congregation of the 
Index protesting against Bishop Bourget's condemna- 
tion, and asking for an answer to this question: "May 
a Catholic, without rendering himself liable to ec- 
clesiastical censures, belong to a literary association 

98 



THE POLITICAL SCENE 

some of whose members are Protestants, and which 
possesses books condemned by the Index, but which are 
neither obscene nor immoral?' 3 His Grace, who was 
not one to rest quiet under attack, carried his case to 
Rome in person. When Wilfrid Laurier left Montreal 
and the institute late in 1866, no decision had come 
from His Holiness. 

Meanwhile the institute continued its course. In 
1867 we find the Rev. John Cordner declaring in an ad- 
dress before the institute that it represented the Gallican 
ideal in its breadth and independence, as against the 
exclusiveness and domineering spirit of Ultramontan- 
ism. In the same year Hon. L. J. Papineau made one 
of his last public appearances before the institute, prais- 
ing it for its defence of the right of free inquiry, en- 
dorsing the principles of '76 and '89, calling on young 
men of whatever creed or race to take part in the work 
of the institute, and assuring it the support of all en- 
lightened citizens in its struggle against "these enemies 
of reason and of thought." A year later, two ad- 
dresses were given which were still less acceptable. 
Horace Greeley came from New York in December, 
1868, to tell his hearers that "for the man who is 
genuinely liberal in this century in which we live, tt\ere 
is but one country, the world; one religion, charity; one 
patriotism, to civilize and do good to all the family of 
mankind; for adversaries, tyranny, ignorance, supersti- 
tion, and, in short, everything which oppresses or de- 
grades." On the same night, Dessaulles urged the need 
of tolerance, sympathy, respect for the rights of others ; 

99 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

insisted that in a country of mixed religions there could 
be no harm in men of mature mind, who belonged to 
different churches, meeting on common ground in the 
pursuit of literature and of science; cited many good 
Catholic writers who preached the same doctrine, and at- 
tacked "the reactionaries who thirsted to stifle liberty of 
thought and to keep grown men in dishonouring 
tutelage." True, he continued, their library contained 
books which were upon the Index, but what university 
or parliamentary library did not contain more, since 
works of Hallam and Michelet, of Agassiz and Cuvier, 
of Cousin and Royer-Collard, of Chateaubriand and 
Lamartine, of Pascal and Montaigne, of Hugo and 
Goethe were on the prohibited list? All these addresses 
were published in the "Annuaire" or "Handbook" for 
1868. 

At last, in 1869, Rome spoke. The question sub- 
mitted by the members of the institute in 1865 was 
not answered, but the "Annuaire" of 1868 was made the 
ground for condemnation. The Congregation of the 
Holy Office condemned as pernicious the doctrines 
taught in the "Annuaire," and forbade the faithful to 
belong to the institute so long as it taught such doc- 
trines. A decree of the Congregation of the Index for- 
bade any to publish, read or possess the "Annuaire." 
Bishop Bourget, in a pastoral letter sent from Rome, 
added the warning that if any person persisted in ad- 
hering to the institute or keeping the "Annuaire" in 
his possession, he would be deprived of the sacraments, 
"meme a 1'article de la mort." The institute met in 

100 



THE POLITICAL SCENE 

September, 1869, and declared: "1. That the In- 
stitut Canadien, founded solely for literary and scien- 
tific purposes, teaches no doctrine of any kind, and care- 
fully excludes all teaching of pernicious doctrines; 2. 
That the Catholic members of the Institut Canadien, 
having learned of the condemnation of the 'Annuaire' 
of 1868, by a decree of Rome's authority, declare that 
they submit purely and simply to this decree." Bishop 
Bourget was not content with this submission, which he 
declared was hypocritical and inadequate : "This act of 
submission forms part of the report of the committee 
unanimously approved by the members of the institute, 
in which there is set forth a resolution heretofore kept 
secret, establishing the principle of religious toleration, 
which was the chief ground for the condemnation of the 
institute." In face of such frank and implacable hos- 
tility, the institute dwindled away; prudence led the 
weak-kneed to resign and death in time carried away the 
stiff-necked. 

The death in 1869 of one of the enduring members, 
Joseph Guibord, printer by trade, a man of upright 
character and a lifelong faithful Catholic, brought about 
the final stage in the long struggle. A priest had re- 
fused to give him the last rites of the Church unless he 
would withdraw ; he declined, and died suddenly shortly 
afterwards. The cure in charge of the cemetery of Cote 
des Neiges therefore refused to grant his body ec- 
clesiastical burial or to admit it within consecrated 
ground. His friends took up the challenge. While 
Joseph Guibord's body lay in a vault, Joseph Doutre 

101 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

and Rodolphe Laflamine, on behalf of the widow, ap- 
pealed to the courts, carried the case to the Privy Coun- 
cil of England, and secured a decision in 1874 that 
under the ecclesiastical law of New France, which had 
never recognized the authority of the decrees of the Con- 
gregation of the Index, Guibord did not lie under any 
valid censure which could warrant his exclusion from 
Christian burial. In September, 1875, Guibord's body 
was carried to the cemetery, only to be met by barred 
gates and angry mobs. Two months later, under 
military escort, and with injunctions from the clergy to 
the people to refrain from all resistance, Guibord was 
buried without religious rites in the consecrated ground, 
side by side with his wife, and the grave protected by 
cement and iron. Yet here again Bishop Bourget had 
the last word, formally proclaiming the ground in which 
the stubborn printer lay, interdicted and unconsecrated. 
One point was yielded; to no other member were the 
rites of the Church refused. 

The passions roused by this unfortunate affair made 
the continuance of the institute impossible. Steadily 
the membership fell away, the books and journals were 
transferred to the Fraser Institute, a free public library, 
and the institute became but a name. Mgr. Bourget 
had triumphed. 

Mr. Laurier had had no part in the later develop- 
ments of the struggle, and had regretted the open cleav- 
age and the bitter recriminations of the closing scenes. 
Yet he never regretted that he had stood for freedom 
in the days of his own membership in the institute. 

102 






THE POLITICAL SCENE 

There have been few men in public life so little given 
to cherishing a grudge. A singular temperamental 
tolerance, resting in part on kindly sympathy, in part on 
a cynical refusal to expect too much from human nature, 
and an abiding understanding of the folly of vendettas 
in a political game wherein the adversaries of to-day 
might be the allies of to-morrow, made him ever slow in 
condemnation. But fifty years after he had ceased to 
be a member of the Institut Canadien, at the men- 
tion of Mgr. Bourget's name his long mobile upper lip 
would tighten, and his kindly eye grow stern as he 
voiced his judgment of the prelate whose interpretation 
of Christianity and their common Catholic faith differed 
so widely from his own. 

Even after his removal from Montreal, Mr. Laurier 
met his share of episcopal censure. In leaving the 
diocese of Mgr. Bourget to go to the diocese of Mgr. 
Lafleche, he found he had exchanged the frying-pan for 
the fire. In addition to his law practice, he had under- 
taken to edit the weekly newspaper, 'Le Defricheur," 
which Eric Dorion had founded to further his work of 
constructive colonization in the Eastern Townships. So 
far as the few copies of "Le Defricheur" which are still 
extant reveal, the new editor had little to say of the 
Church, if much of his political opponents. But in the 
rising temper of the ultramontane group it mattered 
little whether the provocation was little or great. Mgr. 
Lafleche put the journal under the ban. Cure after 
cure advised his parishioners to give up their subscrip- 
tions. Parishioner after parishioner declined to take 

103 



FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT 

the paper from the post, or shamefacedly sought the 
office and declared that as he feared to oppose his wife, 
who feared to oppose the cure, he would have to give 
it up. In six months "Le Defricheur" had gone the 
way of many a Liberal paper in Quebec before and 
after. Years later, when Mr. Laurier was on intimate 
terms with Father Suzor, the cure at Arthabaskaville, 
he asked what excuse there had been for crushing his ef- 
fort. "Oh, we felt you were growing too powerful," 
was the reply. "And did you not consider that you 
were depriving an honest man of his livelihood, destroy- 
ing the investment into which I had put all I could find 
or borrow?" A shrug, and the comforting suggestion 
that such temporal considerations were of little weight, 
were all the satisfaction Mr. Laurier could secure. It 
was not probable that in any case, with his law practice 
growing, he could have long continued to act as editor, 
but that did not lessen the weight of the blow at the 
time. 



104 



CHAPTER III 

FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT 

Clients, Friends, and Books Election to the Legislature A 
Maiden Speech Clerical Hostility The European Background 
The Catholic Programme of 1871 The Parti National Diversion 
-The U tramontane Campaign in Quebec The Appeal to the 
Courts The Appeal to Rome The Appeal to the Public 
Laurier on Political Liberalism The Victory of Moderation. 

FOR thirty years Wilfrid Laurier made his home 
in the village of Arthabaskaville, or Arthabaska, 
as it was later sensibly abbreviated. The early 
years of his life in the Townships were years of quiet 
happiness, of successful work and pleasant leisure. 
Country air and the skilful care of the local physician, 
Dr. Poisson, soon brought back a measure of strength. 
Mr. Laurier's health never ceased to be a matter of con- 
cern. He was well past middle age before any insur- 
ance company would risk a policy on his life. Only an 
ordered and abstemious way of living kept the shadow 
averted. 

On coming first to Arthabaska, Mr. Laurier formed a 
partnership with Mr. Crepeau, which proved of brief 
duration. He then joined forces with Mr. Edouard 
Richard, who is best known as the historian of the 
Acadians. When Mr. Richard was elected as member 
in the federal house for Megantic, and took up his resi- 
dence in that constituency, Mr. Laurier, in 1874, asked 
Joseph Lavergne to join him. The partnership proved 

105 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

both enduring and congenial, ending only when Mr. 
Lavergne, who had been member for Drummond- 
Arthabaska from 1887 to 1897, went on the bench in 
the latter year. Joseph Lavergne, it may be noted, was 
followed as member for the county by his brother Louis, 
whose appointment as senator in 1910 gave occasion for 
the fateful by-election of Drummond-Arthabaska. 

The practice flourished. Both in the judicial seat and 
on circuit the services of young Laurier were greatly 
in demand. It was a litigious neighbourhood, and the 
partners frequently had more difficulty in inducing their 
clients to settle their disputes out of court than in find- 
ing suits to plead. The cases were not of great moment, 
a family quarrel over a will, a neighbour's line-fence dis- 
pute, a damage suit against a railway, but whether little 
or much was at stake, Mr. Laurier greatly enjoyed 
the grappling of minds, and the jousting in the court- 
room. Fees were not high: it was ten years before his 
income rose to two thousand a year, and the largest 
income he ever enjoyed while in practice was five thou- 
sand; but in Arthabaska, and in the seventies and 
eighties, five thousand, or even two, was wealth unques- 
tioned. 

Law did not absorb all Mr. Laurier's time or interest. 
For a time he returned to journalism, acting as editor 
of "Le Journal d' Arthabaska," founded in 1872 by his 
friend Ernest Pacaud, later editor of the leading Lib- 
eral newspaper in Quebec, "L'Electeur." Even with 
this fresh duty, there was leisure for living in Artha- 
baska, and both the desire and the means to live. Al- 

106 






FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT 

though the town had only some three thousand people, 
it was a literary and artistic centre of no little moment. 
A community that produced jovial wits like his brother 
lawyer, Louis Edouard Pacaud, such poets as Adolphe 
Poisson and musicians as Romeo Poisson, and, later, 
sculptors like Philippe Hebert and painters like Suzor 
Cote, was vigorously alive: the great cities had not yet 
drained the countryside. An evening passed in talk 
and song or in a rubber of whist in such company was 
not soon forgotten. The woods and the hills about lured 
to many a quiet ramble, or to a hunt for partridge. The 
local militia offered another outlet. Mr. Laurier be- 
came ensign in 1868. His company was called out for 
service during the Fenian Raid of 1870, though it did 
not have an opportunity to share in the brief skirmishes 
on the Townships' borders. 

But it was in his library that Mr. Laurier passed his 
happiest hours. He read widely in the literature and 
history of his own country and of the two countries from 
which Canada drew its inspiration. Garneau and 
Cremazie, Bossuet and Moliere, Hugo and Lamartine, 
Burke and Sheridan and Fox, Macaulay and Bright, 
Shakespeare and Burns, Newman and Lamennais, were 
the companions of his evening hours. His father's con- 
nection with the seigniory of Peter Pangman, the 
North- West fur-trader, drew his interest to the West- 
ern field, and his shelves soon held many prized narra- 
tives of travel or fur-company feuds beyond the Great 
Lakes. The life and writings of Lincoln were another 
special interest. He had escaped being carried away by 

107 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

the enthusiasm for the South which marked official circles 
and the larger cities in Canada during the Civil War, 
when Southern refugees swarmed in Montreal, and 
plotted border raids. He had pierced below caricature 
and calumny to the rugged strength of the Union leader, 
and held in highest honour his homespun wit, his shrewd 
judgment, his magnanimous patience. More than one 
shelf of his library was set apart for Lincolniana. 

Writing in 1876 to James Young of Gait, Mr. 
Laurier refers to some of his reading in English history: 

I am just finishing "Trevelyan's Life of Macaulay." Have 
you read it? It is a fine book. I greatly admired Macaulay 
as a writer and a public man, but I am delighted with the private 
man. I have immediately, upon finishing reading the "Life 
of Macaulay," begun to read anew his history, and am now 
concluding the fourth volume. The history of England has 
for a foreigner like myself a charm which, I am sure, it has not 
for one accustomed from his infancy to English ideas and tra- 
ditions. As you follow in Macaulay's pages that constant 
struggle between liberty and despotism and the slow and steady 
progress and at last complete triumph of liberty, the student 
of French history is struck with amazement. This is the rea- 
son why I admire you so much, you Anglo-Saxons. 

It was a little more than four years after Wilfrid 
Laurier had begun to practise in Arthabaska that the 
way opened into political life. The first provincial 
legislature had been dissolved, and the general elections 
for the new house were to be held in June and July, 
1871. The counties of Drummond and Arthabaska had 
been represented for the previous four years by a Con- 
servative, Edward Hemming, a Drummondville bar- 
rister. The Liberals of the two counties urged Mr. 

108 



FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT 

Laurier to contest the seat. Though deeply interested 
in politics, and with a full share of a somewhat fastidi- 
ous ambition, he hesitated on account of the precarious 
state of his health. Finally he undertook the contest, 
and though a series of painful hemorrhages hampered 
his campaign, the popularity he had built up among both 
the French-speaking and the English-speaking Cana- 
dians, and particularly the Scots, of the constituency, 
stood him in good stead. While the Liberals through- 
out the province returned only a third of the house, 
Mr. Laurier was triumphantly elected for Drummond- 
Arthabaska, by over one thousand majority. 

In one of the few letters of this period which have been 
preserved, addressed to a class-mate of L'Assomption 
days, shortly after his victory, Mr. Laurier reveals a 
youthful impulsiveness and vagueness of ambition which 
disappeared or at least failed to come to the surface in 
later years : 

Wilfrid Laurier to Oscar Archambault. (Translation) 

Arthabaska, July 23, 1871. 
MY DEAE OSCAR: 

How can I thank you for your good letter! Of all the 
many congratulations which have come to me, it is yours, and 
yours alone, that I looked for. Yours, I knew, would come 
from a friendly heart. My own heart leaped when I saw your 
writing and read the post-mark, "L'Assomption." At that 
word, my whole life, our whole life in college, our life as stu- 
dents, a whole world, passed before my eyes like a flash. In an 
instant I surveyed ten years of my life. How many memories, 
how many happenings, how many intimate thoughts, how 
many anxieties, how many hopes buried by the hand of time, 
surged up in my heart again as freshly as ten years ago. I 

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LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

said to myself then with what joy I would throw to the winds 
ray deputy's seat if I could find myself back in that blessed 
time. 

Yes, my friend, I am now a member of Parliament. I have 
scored a triumph, a real triumph; I have beaten the govern- 
ment, the gold of the government, the eloquence of the min- 
isters ; I have been carried through the portals with nothing 
to help me but popular sympathy. Yet, once more, I would 
sacrifice all that to find myself back at nineteen with my pov- 
erty, but with my hopes, with my illusions, with your friend- 
ship. There is in the depths of my heart an enduring regret 
which the hand of time does not efface ; regret that we have 
not been able to realize the dreams of our youth, that we have 
not been able to carry on beyond the threshold of life that 
union of our career which we had planned so long. How many 
times do I find these thoughts in my head, these regrets in my 
heart ; I say to myself : what 's the use, what 's the use of re- 
gretting what cannot be helped, what 's the use of complaining 
of the implacable edicts of destiny, and yet the very instant 
afterward I find myself again dallying with the same thoughts, 
the same regrets. 

Assuredly I ought to be perfectly happy. It would rest 
only with myself to be happy and I would be were it not for 
this regret. I do not know what you think about it, but for 
me it is a sorrow at every moment. 

Like you, I regret that you have not been able to make your 
entrance into political life this year. We would have come 
together, we would have been able to work together, we would 
have tasted again something of the great days of yore. So 
far as this goes, however, that opportunity is not lost, it is 
merely postponed. At the next elections your turn will come ; 
you will carry by assault that fine county of Assomption of 
Papin's which now lets itself be hypnotized by a wretched 
coterie. I know that that will be a hard struggle to fight, 
but the goal is worthy of your striving. 

As for me, I have not the ambitious ideas with which you 
credit me. I am entering political life without any precon- 

110 



FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT 

ceived ideas, without seeking any personal advantage, I might 
say without desire, or, if I have any desire, it is that of making 
my ideas triumph. We are, it is true, in an era of transition, 
and there is a fair field for any one who will take the trouble 
to strike out his own path. I shall not take the trouble, 
even if I should raise against myself every prejudice in the 
Province of Quebec. My decision, however, has not yet been 
taken or mv line of conduct decided. There was a time when 

/ 

I felt tremendously ambitious, but age has dissipated these 
dreams of adolescence; I am turning into a positivist. 

Adieu, my dear Oscar, or rather au revoir. I suppose that 
I shall see you at Quebec this winter during the session. Ac- 
cept my regards and those of my wife and please remember me 
to your family whose many kindnesses to me will never vanish 
from my memory. 

Your friend, 

W. LAURIER. 

The Assembly met in Quebec, early in November. 
Its legislative tasks were not arduous. The provincial 
legislatures were still groping to ascertain the share of 
the field of activity which had fallen to them when the 
federal system was adopted in 1867. The Conservative 
administration in power was not aggressive. At its 
head since 1867 had been Hon. P. J. O. Chauveau. 
A precocious youth, a poet of fair workmanship, author 
of a novel of French Canada which all praised and few 
read, a glowing and somewhat flowery orator, M. Chau- 
veau had been Superintendent of Education for Canada 
East for the twelve years preceding Confederation. 
When in 1867 Hon. J. E. Cauchon, the hard-hitting 
veteran of Union politics, failed to form a cabinet be- 
cause of the unwillingness of Christopher Dunkin to 
serve under him, M. Chauveau was summoned to form 

111 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

the first provincial administration. His cabinet com- 
prised Gedeon Ouimet, J. O. Beaubien, Charles Boucher 
de Boucherville, Louis Archambault, George Irvine, 
and Christopher Dunkin, best known to fame as the 
most searching critic of Confederation, who was suc- 
ceeded after 1869 by J. G. Robertson. Outside the 
cabinet, and aside from the three federal ministers, 
Cartier, Langevin and Robitaille, who also held seats 
in the provincial house, the ablest man on the govern- 
ment side was Joseph- Adolphe Chapleau. The ranks 
of the Opposition were thin, and the men of outstand- 
ing capacity and experience among them few. Henri 
Joly de Lotbiniere, Luther Hamilton Holton, and 
Telesphore Fournier, all of whom held seats both at 
Ottawa and at Quebec, were men of first-rate capacity. 

In this Assembly Mr. Laurier was not long in mak- 
ing his mark. His conspicuous success in the general 
election had drawn wide attention. His maiden speech, 
on the Reply to the Address, more than justified ex- 
pectations. It was acclaimed with enthusiasm by his 
colleagues, and frankly recognized by his opponents in 
the House and in the press as marking the rise of a new 
force in provincial politics. 

Mr. Laurier, as a member of the Opposition, was in 
duty bound to find the situation of the province less 
hopeful than the ministerial speakers had painted it. 
Yet he did not paint it wholly black. On the political 
and social side there was much to be thankful for. "Cer- 
tainly," he declared, "the fact is one of which we can 
be justly proud, that so many different faces and so 

112 



FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT 

many opposite creeds should find themselves gathered in 
this little corner of earth, and that our constitution 
should prove broad enough to leave them all plenty of 
elbow room, without friction or danger of collision, and 
with the fullest latitude to each to speak its own tongue, 
practise its own religion, retain its own customs and en- 
joy its equal share of liberty and of the light of the 
sun." He found two outstanding omissions in the gov- 
ernment's programme so far as political questions were 
concerned. It had failed to bring in a bill to do away 
with the pernicious system of spreading elections out 
over weeks or months, thus permitting the government 
of the day to issue writs first for the seats it considered 
safe and to concentrate its influence later on the seats 
it considered in danger. It had failed, in spite of the 
premier's long study of educational affairs, to propose 
any improvements in the school system of the province. 
But the government's greatest weakness, Mr. Laurier 
continued, was its failure on the industrial side, its un- 
readiness to grapple with the serious economic problems, 
the backward state of agriculture, the stagnation of in- 
dustry, the steady outward flow of the young men and 
women of the province to the United States. With all 
the great resources of which so much was heard, the 
people were in the position of Tantalus, starving in sight 
of a sumptuous table. Doubtless the ministry were not 
alone responsible for this bleeding of the country's 
strength. Yet they might have sought to build up a 
national industry, to remove the humiliating confes- 
sion that after three centuries the country was still un- 

113 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

able to supply its own wants, to go back if need be to 
Papineau's policy: 'We should buy nothing from the 
metropolis." The government should seek to bring in 
industrial immigrants, master mechanics and small cap- 
italists, the master miners of Wales and the north of 



England, the mechanics of Alsace, the weavers of 
Flanders and the artisans of Germany, rather than en- 
deavour to recruit solely agricultural immigration. 
The agricultural population of Quebec, he acutely in- 
sisted, would never be increased from outside: "Our 
climate is too severe and the development of our lands 
too costly and difficult. The children of the soil will 
not be deterred by these obstacles, but the stranger will 
simply pass through our territory and locate on the rich 
prairies of the West." The French-Canadians them- 
selves should take on a more industrial character. 'We 
are surrounded," he declared, "by a strong and vigorous 
race who are endowed with a devouring activity and 
have taken possession of the entire universe as their 
field of labour. As a French-Canadian, Sir, I am 
pained to see my people eternally excelled by our fel- 
low-countrymen of British origin. We must frankly 
acknowledge that down to the present we have been left 
behind in the race. We can admit this and admit it 
without shame, because the fact is explained by purely 
political reasons which denote no inferiority on our part. 
After the Conquest, the French-Canadians, desirous of 
maintaining their national inheritance intact, fell back 
upon themselves, and kept up no relations with the out- 
side world. The immediate result of this policy was to 

114 



FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT 

keep them strangers to the reforms which were con- 
stantly taking place beyond their boundaries, and fatally 
to shut them up within the narrow circle of their own 
old views. On the other hand, the new blood which was 
poured into the colony came from the most advanced 
country under the sun in point of trade and industry. 
They brought with them the civilization of their native 
land and their strength was ceaselessly renewed by a 
steady current of immigration, which added not only 
to their numbers but to their stock of information and 
their ideas." 

Mr. Laurier's maiden speech doubtless had its share 
of party rhetoric and of an Opposition member's li- 
censed criticism. Yet it was in matter a distinct 
achievement for a man of thirty, broad in its sweep and 
markedly free from partisan recriminations, while the 
grace and persuasiveness of his manner held high 
promise. The steady drain of Quebeckers to the in- 
dustrial towns of the Eastern States to which he called 
attention was a serious loss. In a vivid passage in a 
speech the following session, discussing some restric- 
tions introduced by the government on the settlement of 
the Crown lands of the province, Mr. Laurier pictured 
fifty thousand sturdy Canadians filing in slow and un- 
broken column past the minister, on their way into exile 
in the Republic, crying Roman-wise, Ave, migraturi te 
salutant. 

It was, however, in the debate in 1871 on the aboli- 
tion of dual representation that Mr. Laurier most 
clearly showed his strength. The constitutional issues 

115 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

involved were then as ever more congenial to him than 
economic questions : his training as a lawyer, his reading 
in the classics of French radicalism and English liberal- 
ism, and his position as a member of a minority relying 
on constitutional guarantees for the preservation of its 
rights, gave a leading place in his thinking to consider- 
ations of justice and of the legality in which justice was 
assumed to fee^ashr^ined. 

The system of dual representation, by which the same 
men could hold seats both in the federal parliament and 
in the legislature of their province, had not been made 
a positive feature of the Confederation scheme. It 
had developed because no law forbade it, and because 
of the dearth of men of first-rate calibre. Each party 
was keen to be represented by its strongest men both at 
the federal and at the provincial capital. Sir John 
Macdonald, with his theoretical preference for a legis- 
lative rather than a federal union of the Dominion, and 
his practical desire to have his hand on the provincial 
machine, was particularly determined in support of the 
dual system. It had its strong features, raising the level 
of capacity in the local legislatures, and in some cases 
conducing to harmony between federal and provincial 
policy. Yet there were still stronger grounds of objec- 
tion on principle, and in spite of the short sessions which 
were then the rule, the practical inconvenience of adjust- 
ing the meetings of parliament and of legislature every 
year in such a way as to avoid conflict was increasingly 
felt. 

In discussing the general question of constitutional 

116 



FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT 

limitations, Mr. Laurier gave interesting evidence of 
the influence on his thought of the social-contract doc- 
trines of the older radical individualist tradition: 

When a people accept a constitution, they make the sacri- 
fice of a portion of their liberty, a generous sacrifice by which 
each gives up something belonging to himself individually for 
the benefit and security of the whole. When a people accept 
a constitution they trace out themselves the circle which they 
assign to their liberties ; they say to themselves, in a sense : 
This space belongs to me; here I can speak, think, act; I owe 
no account of my words, my thoughts, my acts to any one ex- 
cept to my own conscience and to God ; but as regards society, 
here its domain begins and mine ends, and I shall not go fur- 
ther. Still, like all human works, constitutions are not per- 
fect. New horizons, which were not before perceived, are 
constantly opening up, and unsuspected abuses are discovered. 
It is then the duty of the legislature to step in and enlarge or 
contract, according 1 to needs and circumstances, the circle 
within which the institutions of the country move. 

Passing to the specific issue, he showed convincingly 
that dual representation led to practical inconvenience 
and inconsistency of policy, and particularly that it 
tended to confuse federal and provincial issues and sub- 
ordinate provincial to federal policy. For Quebec the 
system was particularly dangerous: 'With the single 
mandate, Quebec is Quebec; with the double mandate, 
it becomes merely an appendix to Ottawa." 

The motion to abolish dual representation was de- 
feated by a small margin on this occasion; it was carried 
the next session, only to be rejected in the legislative 
council. In the meantime the province of Ontario had 
abolished the system in 1872. In 1873 the Dominion 

117 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

parliament made the prohibition general by providing 
that members of any provincial legislature should be in- 
eligible for the federal house. 

Mr. Laurier spoke rarely, but always with effect. 
The Quebec correspondent of the chief French Liberal 
newspaper, "Le Pays," summing up the session of 1872, 
declared that " Mr. Laurier has definitely carried off the 
sceptre of eloquence in the Legislative Assembly ; I can- 
not, however, help reproaching him for not taking part 
often enough in the debates." Even "Le Nouveau 
Monde," the ultra-clerical organ, generously bore 
tribute to the grace of his style and his insistence on go- 
ing back to first principles though unfortunately those 
principles were Liberal if not Socialist. 

In the first ten years of Wilfrid Laurier's public 
career, the outstanding issue with which he had to deal 
was the hostility of a vigorous and aggressive sec- 
tion of the Quebec clergy to the party of which he was 
one of the responsible leaders. It has been seen that 
in the twenty years before Confederation the Rouge 
party and its journalistic spokesmen had, not without 
reason, found themselves in the black books of the clergy, 
and that with much less reason Bishop Bourget and his 
abettors had waged war upon the young men grouped in 
Tlnstitut Canadien who had dared to maintain the lib- 
erty of inquiry and discussion. In the dozen years that 
followed, the storm, instead of abating, grew more vio- 
lent. The area of conflict widened, occupying the whole 
provincial stage, and the connection with the contem- 

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FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT 

poraneous movements in Europe became still more 
marked than in the Union period. 

One factor in the situation was that the aggressively 
ultramontane -wing of the Church in Quebec had grown 
more powerful. Mgr. Bourget and Mgr. Lafleche were 
now older and more firmly established in their seats, with 
wills which had become no less firm with years of exer- 
cised authority. Around them, and particularly in 
Montreal, there gathered the men of what Mgr. Bourget 
termed the New School, journalists like the editors of 
the "Nouveau Monde" and the "Franc-Parleur," pam- 
phleteers like Alphonse Villeneuve, and preachers like 
Abbe Pelletier and Father Braiin, a newly come Jesuit. 
In the archbishop's palace, in the Seminary of St. Sul- 
pice and in Laval University at Quebec, another temper 
and other views of how the Church's interest could best 
be served prevailed, but the fighting, uncompromising, 
unrecking minority daily gained ascendancy. 

The activity of this school was the more intense be- 
cause Confederation seemed to have left them a free 
field. In Quebec as in the other provinces there had 
been set up a provincial government to which were as- 
signed education and the local matters in which the 
Church was chiefly concerned. No longer was it neces- 
sary to run the gauntlet of a vigilant and biased 
Clear Grit group from Upper Canada when matters 
ecclesiastical were brought before the House. In Que- 
bec the people were four-fifths Catholic, and on this fact 
the ultramontane wing based its hopes of moulding the 
province to its will. 

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LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

But more effective than any other factor was the influ- 
ence of the Old World conflict. The Canadian move- 
ment was not merely parallel with the European, but in 
issues and inspiration, party labels and party cries, it 
was directly and closely shaped by it. 

In Catholic Europe, and particularly in France, a 
struggle had waged for centuries between opposing 
tendencies, which before 1789 were usually termed 
Gallican and ultramontane and after 1789 liberal and 
ultramontane, though the shades of opinion were too 
multiform and shifting for any single labels to qualify 
them aright. The Gallican sought to build up an inde- 
pendent national church, demanding administrative 
authority for the king, and, usually, doctrinal authority 
for church councils, as against the claims of the papacy. 
The ultramontane, looking "beyond the mountains" to 
Rome, insisted that the one Holy Catholic Church must 
be ruled as a unity, that the Pope as its head and God's 
vice-regent not only was supreme in spiritual affairs, but 
was entitled, because of the inherent superiority of 
spiritual power over temporal, to control all temporal 
affairs, and they were not few, in which moral or spirit- 
ual issues could be said to be involved. The Gallican 
on the whole had the better of the dispute, until the 
French Revolution seemed likely to end it by complet- 
ing the destruction alike of national church and papal 
power. The national churches, undermined by the 
rationalist questioning of the age of Voltaire and weak- 
ened by the worldliness of the higher clergy, appeared 
destined to crumble under the attacks of the revolution- 

120 



FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT 

ary spirit which accepted no institution however ancient 
and no claim that could not justify itself at the bar of 
reason. The papacy, with its Italian possessions in- 
vaded and seized, and the Popes themselves exiled and 
prisoners, had fallen to its lowest ebb of power. 

Yet the tide speedily turned. The nineteenth century 
witnessed no more remarkable development than the 
steady revival of the Roman Catholic Church and the 
still more rapid growth of the ultramontane spirit within 
the Church. The people, when admitted to power, 
proved to be much more religious than the sceptical 
aristocrats of the old regime. In the softer lights of 
romanticism, faiths revived which had wilted under the 
harsh noonday glare of rationalism. Kings and nobles 
and capitalists, seeking to build up bulwarks against 
tumultuous change, turned to the most ancient and un- 
changing seat of authority in Europe. But the new 
religious zeal, for all the efforts of Bourbon and Haps- 
burg kings, could not be put back into the old bottles of 
Gallicanism. The clergy in France had ceased to be 
a separate estate of the realm ; the episcopate had ceased 
to be made up of scions of ancient families, bound by 
training and territorial possessions to the political in- 
terests of their kingdom. All the men of vitality in the 
reviving Church preferred to be the religious servants of 
the Vicar of Christ rather than the civil servants of a 
Bourbon king. 

What was to be the attitude of the ancient power thus 
revived to the new power unloosed by the Revolution? 
Could the Church accept the principles of '89 and '93, 

121 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

inscribe "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity" on its ban- 
ners, and make terms with Liberalism and the states in 
which Liberalism was in control? Continental Liberal- 
ism, with its emphasis on the individual, had assumed a 
state founded on the free contract of individual men, had 
asserted the right to freedom of thought, of speech, and 
of organization and then had often inconsistently 
refused the Church freedom to act and organize as it 
willed. The Church had held that political societies 
were not man-made but ordained of Heaven, and that 
individual reason and individual claims must be subordi- 
nated to the authority in Church and State which God 
himself had set up. 

There were many ardent spirits in France, Lamen- 
nais, Lacordaire and Montalembert foremost among 
them, who believed it would be possible to bring the 
Church and Liberalism to terms, and to develop a Cath- 
olic Liberalism which would meet the needs of the new 
day. * They besought the Pope to place himself at the 
head of a purified Liberal movement in Europe, and to 
base Catholicism firmly once more on the will and the 
devotion of the multitudes. In revolt against the policy 
which made the Church merely an instrument of state 
policy, they turned to Rome for freedom from royal 
shackles ; urging freedom for themselves, they were pre- 
pared to extend it to others. Fighting Gallican kings 
and ministers, they sought to be at once ultramontane 
and liberal, ultramontane from religious conviction and 

i"I am a disciple of Lacordaire," wrote Mr. Laurier in 1897, replying 
to a fellow-Liberal who took the uncompromising anti-clerical Liberalism 
of Continental Europe as his model. 

122 



FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT 

liberal from political expediency. "Men tremble before 
Liberalism," Lamennais had declared; "make it Catho- 
lic, and society will be born again." 'There are two 
Liberalisms," he wrote in "L'Avenir" in 1830, "the old 
and the new : the old, heir to the doctrines of eighteenth 
century philosophy, breathes only religious intolerance 
and oppression, but the new liberalism, which will in 
time overcome the old, is only concerned, as regards 
religion, with demanding the separation of Church and 
State, a separation which is necessary for the liberty of 
the Church." "Understand clearly, my Catholic 
brethren," Lacordaire had added: "if you wish liberty 
for yourselves, you must wish it for all men and for 
every land. If you demand it for yourselves alone, it 
will never be given you. Grant it where you are masters 
in order that it may be given you where you are slaves." 
And the Bishop of Orleans, Mgr. Dupanloup, had been 
equally clear-cut: 'These liberties so dear to those who 
accuse us of not loving them, we proclaim and we invoke, 
for ourselves as well as for others. We accept, we in- 
voke, the principles and the liberties proclaimed in '89." 
Catholic Liberalism fought in vain. The Liberals of 
the straiter sect would not make peace, continuing to 
attack the doctrines of the Church and too suspicious of 
its power to grant it the unrestricted liberty of teaching 
and organization that was demanded. Liberal or con- 
stitutional politicians, particularly in central Europe, 
insisted that the Church had no rights save what the state 
conferred, and that the religious affairs of a nation 
should be regulated by the Minister of Worship as f or- 

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LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

eign affairs were regulated by the Foreign Secretary. 
Nor was Rome more ready to accept a compromise. 
Liberalism had too much to say about the rights of man, 
and too little about duty to God ; it erred in endeavour- 
ing to found society upon the shifting sands of individual 
compact, instead of upon the rock of divine ordinance 
applied and interpreted by the Church and its earthly 
head ; Liberalism was only Gallicanism transformed for 
the worse, kingless as well as godless ; liberty was not for 
all times and places, for while truth must always be 
given liberty, the right to do wrong or think wrong 
could not be claimed. Time and time again the decision 
was given against Catholic Liberalism. In 1832 Greg- 
ory XVI issued his famous Encyclical, "Mirari vos," 
condemning the policy of its leaders, particularly of 
Lamennais, and' repudiating "the absurd and erroneous 
maxim that liberty of conscience must be assured and 
guaranteed to all." In 1864, Pius IX, who had been 
hailed as liberal in his early days, but had become more 
conservative after having been driven from Rome in the 
revolution of 1848, issued the Syllabus, containing a list 
of "the principal errors of our time," including notably 
the advocacy of separation of Church and State, and of 
the necessity of reconciling the Church and modern 
Liberalism. Finally in 1869, the great Vatican Coun- 
cil, attended by over seven hundred bishops and prelates 
from every Catholic people under the sun, after much 
debate and wide difference of opinion, voted overwhelm- 
ingly to accept the doctrine of papal infallibility on ques- 
tions of faith and morals. 

124 



FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT 

Ultramontanism had triumphed, triumphed so com- 
pletely that leaders of the Church thereafter denied that 
it was merely one current of action and opinion, and in- 
sisted that it was synonymous with any permissible in- 
terpretation of Roman Catholicism itself. Yet if ac- 
cepted within the Church, the tendencies of which the 
proclamation of papal infallibility was the crowning 
achievement were not accepted by European statesmen. 
Austria annulled the Concordat, Prussia launched out 
upon its Kulturkampf, and in France the war between 
clerical and anti-clerical parties grew ever more bitter 
until it led, many years later, to the disestablishment 
of the Church and the expulsion of the religious orders. 
The day after the decree was issued, war broke out be- 
tween France and Prussia, Napoleon withdrew the 
troops which had garrisoned the Papal States, and the 
temporal power of the Pope collapsed in the very year 
that his spiritual authority reached transcendent heights. 

In Canada as elsewhere the Church authorities were 
divided in opinion as to the doctrinal soundness or the 
practical expediency of the Syllabus and the defini- 
tion of papal infallibility. In Quebec, Archbishop 
Baillargeon circulated among his clergy the famous 
letter in which Bishop Dupanloup, on the eve of depart- 
ing for the Council, had vigorously and minutely called 
in question both the soundness and opportuneness of the 
doctrine. But the men of the newer school, led by 
Bishop Bourget, gave hearty support to the ultramon- 
tane movement, and were encouraged by its success to as- 
sert a wider influence in state affairs and to take a 

125 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

stronger line against their more moderate brethren with- 
in the Church itself. 

A remarkable episode, making dramatically clear the 
closer bonds that now united Quebec and Rome, was 
the organization in 1867 and the two years following 
of companies of Papal Zouaves for the defence of the 
Pope's temporal realms. So strong was the conviction 
that the whole future of religion and the Church were 
imperilled, that hundreds of young crusaders, feted and 
garlanded by sympathetic friends and blessed by Bishop 
Bourget in a glowing pastoral, crossed the seas from this 
land that had seemed to know little and care less for 
Old World quarrels, prepared to fight side by side with 
papal guards against the forces that were striving to 
make Italy a single nation, with Rome as its centre and 
crown. 

At home, the new spirit was manifested in many on- 
slaughts against the men of moderate views. The Sem- 
inary of St. Sulpice in Montreal, and Laval University 
in Quebec, with the archbishop as its patron, were vigor- 
ously attacked in the sixties and seventies. Mgr. Bour- 
get was Bishop of Montreal, but the Seminary, as 
seigneur in receipt of rents and lods et Denies, and as 
cure, in receipt of tithes, secured the chief revenues ac- 
cruing within the diocese. The main issue at stake was 
the right of the bishop to subdivide the old single parish 
of Montreal, hitherto in charge of the Seminary; a sub- 
sidiary question was as to whether he could establish the 
new parishes without the consent of the majority of 
the parishioners concerned, and the formal approval of 

126 



FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT 

the State. Sir George Cartier and "La Minerve" 
stoutly championed the Seminary; in "Le Nouveau 
Monde," established in 1864 under his direct control, 
Mgr. Bourget found vigorous newspaper support. 
Against Laval University, again, charges of Gallican 
and Liberal leanings were freely brought. Even old 
political friends were not spared. The hostility of Mgr. 
Bourget contributed heavily to Cartier's defeat in the 
general election of 1872. At his death a year later the 
"Nouveau Monde" very frankly exposed his fault: 
'The epoch of Mr. Cartier's greatest power was also the 
epoch when the errors which were to prove fatal devel- 
oped. Thinking himself invincible, he forgot the source 
whence he derived his strength. . . . The attempt in 
which he persisted with so great perseverance to defeat 
the projects of his Bishop and procure the annulment of 
canonical decrees by the civil tribunals, destroyed the 
confidence of the Catholics and brought on the ruin of 
the colossus." 

Not content with indirect control, the ultramontane 
school determined in 1871 to enter the political field 
openly and aggressively. Early in that year a group 
of editors and lawyers, all deep-dyed Conservatives, and 
all, in their own words, "belonging heart and soul to the 
ultramontane school," gathered in Montreal to consider 
how best to advance their cause. The group included 
F. X. A. Trudel, a prominent member of the Legislative 
Assembly, A. B. Routhier, and other lawyers, and 
the leading ultramontane editors, Alphonse Desjardins 
of "L'Ordre," Magloire Macleod of the "Journal des 

127 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

Trois-Rivieres," M. Renault of the "Courrier du 
Canada," and C. Beausoleil, the editor, and Canon La- 
marche, the censor, of "Le Nouveau Monde." They 
decided, after recalling the effective work Louis Veuil- 
lot had done in France by his uncompromising stand, to 
launch a movement for organizing a Catholic party, or 
rather for purging the Conservative party of the anti- 
clerical elements which were creeping in. A manifesto 
embodying their views was drawn by M. Routhier, re- 
vised by Mgr. Lafleche, approved by Mgr. Bourget, and 
published first in the "Journal des Trois-Rivieres" on 
April 20, 1871. 

The "Catholic Programme," as the manifesto was 
termed, was devised to guide aright the Catholic voters 
in the approaching provincial elections. Taking as its 
starting-point a pastoral of Mgr. Lafleche exhorting the 
people to choose legislators who would safeguard the 
interests of the Church, the "Programme" declared that 
since the separation of Church and State was an absurd 
and impious doctrine, and legislators would therefore 
have to do with matters ecclesiastical, it was essential 
for Catholics to choose men who gave full and unre- 
served adhesion to the religious, political and social doc- 
trines of their church. Protestants, of course, would 
have the same liberty. This involved, as a rule, the sup- 
port of the Conservative party, as the only one offering 
valid guarantees for the interests of religion, but the 
support should not be blind. Only those candidates 
should be chosen who would agree to modify the laws 
of the province in regard to education, marriage, the 

128 



FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT 

erection of parishes and other matters, in the way de- 
manded by the Bishops. In detail, this meant: "1 If 
the contest is between two Conservatives, it goes with- 
out saying that we shall support the one who accepts 
the platform we have just outlined; 2 If, on the con- 
trary, it is between a Conservative of any shade what- 
ever and an adept of the Liberal school, our sympathies 
will be given actively to the former; 3 If the only 
candidates who come forward in a constituency are both 
Liberals or oppositionists, we must choose whichever 
will agree to our terms; 4 Finally, in the event that the 
contest lies between a Conservative who rejects our 
programme and an opportunist of any brand who ac- 
cepts it, the position would be more delicate. To vote 
for the former would be to contradict the doctrine we 
have just expounded; to vote for the latter would be 
to imperil the Conservative party, which we wish to see 
strong. What decision should we make as between 
these two dangers? In this case we should advise Cath- 
olic electors to abstain from voting." 

This extraordinary document was republished and 
supported by the "Nouveau Monde," the "Franc Par- 
leur," the "Ordre," the "Courrier du Canada," the 
'Union des Cantons de 1'Est," and the "Pionnier de 
Sherbrooke. Several members of the Assembly has- 
tened to proclaim their adhesion. But "La Minerve" 
and the erstwhile clerical "Journal de Quebec" flatly and 
vigorously denounced the manifesto as an insufferable 
affront. More significant still was the publication of a 
letter, on April 26, from Archbishop Taschereau, stat- 

129 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

ing that he knew of the document only through the 
newspapers and that it therefore lay under the grave dis- 
ability of having been drawn up wholly without any 
participation by the episcopacy; no member of the 
clergy was authorized to exceed the limits laid down by 
the Fourth Council of Quebec. This disavowal did not 
deter the two episcopal champions of ultramontanism. 
Both issued pastorals approving its doctrines, and stated 
publicly and explicitly that they endorsed the Pro- 
gramme, Mgr. Bourget adding that he considered it the 
surest safeguard for a truly Conservative party. 

When the provincial elections of 1871, in which Wil- 
frid Laurier was returned for Drummond-Arthabaska, 
were over, the Liberals found themselves once more in 
a small minority. A group of moderate Liberals deter- 
mined to make a fresh start and blot out the tradition 
of anti-clericalism which barred their path to power. 
Under the leadership of Louis A. Jette, a Montreal 
barrister, the endeavour was made to reorganize the 
Liberal party as the Parti National. The new label was 
accepted, though without enthusiasm, by the old Rouges, 
and fresh recruits were gathered in circles friendly to the 
clergy. The Parti National stood for Canada first 
and last, had a leaning toward protection, and expressed 
the friendliest feelings toward the clergy, though still 
solicitous to prevent their robes being soiled in the mire 
of politics. A new journal, "Le National," was estab- 
lished in Montreal to voice its views, and the "Bien 
Public" of the same city, and "L'Electeur" and 

130 



FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT 

"L'Evenement" of Quebec, gave it general support. * 
The effects of the new tactics were seen in the in- 
creased Liberal representation in the federal elections 
of 1872, and particularly in the defeat of the veteran 
Cartier himself by Jette in Montreal East. In the 
latter election there was open alliance between the Parti 
National and the Ultramontanes against their common 
foe. But the reconciliation did not prove lasting. The 
great bulk of the clergy looked upon this sudden re- 
pentance as merely a ruse, and the fighting clans among 
the old Rouges were uneasy in their unwonted company. 
Gradually the transformation was reversed, the former 
chieftains again took control, and the Parti National 
faded into the Liberal party once more. When the 
Liberal party came to power in Ottawa after the ex- 
posure of the Pacific scandal, it was the old Rouge 
leaders, Letellier, Fournier, Laflamme, Geoffrion, who 
were taken into the cabinet, not the Jettes. The ap- 
pointment of Cauchon was the only concession made to 
the new allies. 

Writing in July 1874 to James Young, an Ontario 
member whom he had met at Ottawa, Mr. Laurier ex- 
plains the situation: 

The Nouveau Monde party have been clamorous to have 
Jette installed in office. You want to know the reason. Here 
it is. The Nouveau Monde party are not Liberals : they are 
of the worst class of Conservatives they are Ultramontanes. 

1 "... We are a national party because, before all, we are attached to 
our nation, and because we have pledged our unswerving loyalty to Canada 
above the whole world: Canada against the world. . . . 'Le National' 
will be a political and non-religious paper, but, as the special organ of 
the Catholic population, and in conformity with the opinions of the di- 

131 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

That party have been Instrumental in making Cartier what 
he was amongst us. They took him when he was nothing, and 
for years fought all his battles. They approved of everything 
he said or did, they represented him as a pillar of the altar, and 
they poured the blessings of the Church over all his scandals. 
Cartier, as long as he was weak and needy, humiliated his 
despotic nature to them, and was in their hands a pliant tool. 
But when, after Confederation, he found himself supported by 
an overwhelming majority, he gave free vent to his own haughty 
nature. He did nothing against them, it is true, but he treated 
them as inferiors, and no longer submissively kissed their hands : 
that was enough to alienate their affections. He did still more : 
he gave them to understand very freely that he was the master, 
that he could rule and would rule without them. 

The Ultramontanes were incensed with rage, but what could 
they do? Cartier knew perfectly what he was about. They 
had too long proclaimed him a little saint, to brand him now 
as a heretic or an enemy of the Church. Cartier knew per- 
fectly well that they would not dare to undo their own work. 

They then adopted a new tactics. (Is this English, by the 
way?) They made a movement forward in the doctrine. 
Cartier was yet a good man, but he could be better. He had 
too much of the Liberal ideas in him; though he had been a 
servant of the Church, he had not in him the true spirit of the 
Church in all its purity. 

Our friend Jette, who is clever, and has alwavs been known 

' V 

as a moderate Liberal, adopted this new programme. In re- 
turn, he was adopted both by the Ultramontanes, on account of 
his avowed principles, and by the Liberals, on account of his 
supposed tendencies. Since then, Jette has always acted with 
us, and in the same time, has always been careful to keep on 
good terms with the Ultramontanes. And this is the reason 
why they have been so zealous to get him a seat in the Cabinet. 

rectors of the journal, when occasion arises, we shall concur with Catholic 
opinion, and we repudiate in advance anything which may inadvertently 
be overlooked in the hasty editing of a daily paper, in order to protest 
our entire devotion and our filial obedience to the Church." Opening 
manifesto of "Le National," April 24, 1872. 

132 



FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT 

They want to have there a representative of their own prin- 
ciples. 

The Parti National diversion had failed to avert 
the wrath of the ultramontane crusaders. More con- 
vinced than ever that even moderate Liberals were incor- 
rigible, they renewed their endeavour to place submissive 
politicians in control of the local government. Develop- 
ments in the provincial field soon provided an oppor- 
tunity. The Conservative government of Gedeon 
Ouimet, who had succeeded Chauveau as premier in 
1873, was forced to resign in September, 1874, as the 
result of charges of administrative corruption the Tan- 
neries or "land-swap" scandal. The Ouimet cabinet 
had consisted mainly of the C artier wing of the Con- 
servative party. Charles de Boucherville, who formed 
the new administration, was one of the leading lay ad- 
herents of the Programme. When the general provin- 
cial elections followed in July, 1875, the whole weight 
of the ultramontane wing of the clergy was thrown 
to their support. The Liberals were nearly annihi- 
lated. Their leader, Henri Joly de Lotbiniere, who 
was a Protestant, offered to resign on the ground that 
his religion was a handicap to his party, but his sup- 
porters in the House denied that the ultramontanes 
could be any more hostile to a Protestant than to a 
Catholic Liberal, and insisted on his retaining his 
post. 

The activities of the majority in the new legislature 
soon justified its ultramontane backers. In the first 
session three significant acts were passed. One was de- 

133 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

signed to prevent a second Guibord appeal to the courts ; 
it declared the right of the ecclesiastical authorities to 
designate the place in the cemetery where each individual 
was to be buried, and provided that if according to the 
canonical rules and in the opinion of the bishop any de- 
ceased person could not be buried in consecrated ground 
with liturgical prayers, he should receive civil burial in 
ground adjoining the cemetery. A second law gave 
civil confirmation to the action of Bishop Bourget in 
dividing the parish of Montreal; a marginal note, later 
explained away as an inexact expression of a compiler, 
declared that "decrees of our Holy Father the Pope 
are binding." Most important was the establishment 
of education upon a wholly denominational basis, and 
the restriction of state control by making the superin- 
tendent a civil servant instead of a cabinet member as 
formerly. Control of Catholic education was given to 
a committee consisting of the bishops and an equal 
number of appointed laymen, the bishops, however, alone 
enjoying the right to be represented by proxy. Con- 
trol of Protestant schools was confided as fully and 
freely to a Protestant committee. It was urged that it 
was desirable to remove education from politics, and that 
the freedom given the Protestant minority was a proof 
of liberality and tolerance, but the fact remained that 
the measure was a concession to the element which op- 
posed state control over education and other matters de- 
clared to be within the Church's sphere. 

The next concerted action was the issuing of a joint 
pastoral on the political situation. The Council of 

134 



FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT 

Bishops had on several occasions issued advice on politi- 
cal issues to clergy and laity; the Second Council, of 
1858, urged the clergy to be neutral in political issues 
where religion was not involved; the Third, in 1863, con- 
demned secret societies and the plague of evil news- 
papers; the Fourth, in 1868, criticized the assertion that 
religion had nothing to do with politics, and the Fifth, 
in 1873, attacked, but in brief and vague terms, that false 
serpent Catholic Liberalism and asserted that the 
Church was independent of the State and superior to it. 
Now in September, 1875, Archbishop Taschereau was 
induced to join the other bishops of the province in 
issuing a joint letter, designed, as the letter stated, "to 
shut the mouths of those who, to sanction their false 
doctrines, find pretexts for escaping the teachings of 
their own bishop by invoking the authority of other 
bishops which unfortunately they abuse, deceiving the 
good people." 

The joint pastoral of September, 1875, was mainly a 
warning against Catholic Liberalism that subtle error, 
that serpent that crept into Eden, that most bitter and 
most dangerous enemy of the Church. "Distrust above 
all," the letter ran, "that liberalism which wishes to cover 
itself with the fine name of 'catholic' in order to accom- 
plish more surely its criminal mission. You will recog- 
nize it easily from the description which the Sovereign 



Pontiff has often given of it: 1 The endeavour to sub- 
ordinate the Church to the State; 2 incessant attempts 
to break the bonds which unite the children of the Church 
with one another and with their clergy ; 3 the monstrous 

135 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

alliance of truth with error, under the pretext of recon- 
ciling all things and avoiding conflicts; 4 finally, the 
illusion, or at times the hypocrisy, which conceals a 
boundless pride under the mask of religion and of fine 
assurances of submission to the Church. . . . No one, 
therefore, may in future with good conscience be per- 
mitted to remain a Catholic Liberal." As to the activity 
of the clergy in politics, they had the same rights as 
other citizens, and further, as representing the Church 
might and should intervene in moral issues or questions 
affecting the liberty or independence of the Church. 
An individual candidate may be a menace, or a whole 
party may be so considered, not only because of its own 
programme and antecedents but because of the pro- 
gramme and private antecedents of its leaders and its 
journals. In such case the Church must speak, the 
priest "may declare with authority that to vote in such 
a way is a sin, and exposes the doer to the censures 
of the Church." If any priest errs in applying these 
principles, the remedy lies in the tribunals of the Church, 
not, as had been hinted, in haling the priest before the 
civil courts. A circular to the clergy, accompanying the 
pastoral, warned the priests not to intervene too freely 
and to consult their bishop before acting in unusual cir- 
cumstances. If accused of undue influence before a civil 
court, they should deny its competence, but if con- 
demned should suffer persecution in patience. In a 
pastoral letter of February, 1876, Bishop Bourget ex- 
plained how the layman could carry out this advice : let 

136 



FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT 

each say this in his heart, "I hear my cure, my cure 
hears the Bishop, the Bishop hears the Pope, and the 
Pope hears our Lord Jesus Christ." 

The pastoral was taken as a fresh declaration of war 
on the Liberal party. True, no party was specifically 
named, but, as Mgr. Lafleche declared, "it would not 
be strictly true to say that the letter did not condemn 
the Liberal party." The clerical press, and when by- 
elections afforded an opportunity, the majority of the 
clergy, dotted the i's and crossed the t's. In January, 
1876, two federal by-elections were held in Quebec con- 
stituencies. In Charlevoix, M. Tremblay, a good Cath- 
olic all his life, was the Liberal candidate. His op- 
ponent was Hector Langevin, who had been tarred by 
the Pacific scandal, but was still an aspirant for Car- 
tier's mantle. Langevin announced that he presented 
himself after consulting the clergy of the district and 
with their full and hearty support, though Mr. Tremb- 
lay was able to produce two dissenting cures. Priest 
after priest denounced Liberalism, invoked the horrors 
of the French Revolution and the Paris Commune, pic- 
tured the contest as one between the Pope and Gari- 
baldi, and warned his hearers of how they would feel 
on their death-bed, or still worse, if carried away by 
sudden death, if they had voted for a party condemned 
by the Church. Some cures stated explicitly that to 
vote for the Liberals was to commit a mortal sin, and 
such phrases as "subtle serpent," "false Christs," 
"yawning abyss," heightened many a discourse. In 

137 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

Chambly, one cure, M. Lussier, after consulting Mgr. 
Bourget, declared that no Catholic could be a moderate 
Liberal: moderate meant liar. The crusade had its ef- 
fect, and in both constituencies the Liberal candidates 
were decisively defeated. 

The policy of clerical intervention reached its climax 
in the pastoral of 1875, and the elections of that and the 
following year. Many were intimidated by the reign 
of terror that prevailed, but others were roused to a re- 
sistance which compelled a halt. 

The ultramontane campaign had not been without its 
effect on the Protestant minority in Quebec. Its 
leaders were divided between acquiescing in a situation 
in which they themselves were accorded full liberty, and 
protesting against the inroads on the liberty of their 
fellow-citizens. In December, 1875, Huntington took 
occasion in a by-election speech in Argenteuil to de- 
nounce the English-speaking Protestants for giving 
ultramontanism its chance by their blind support of the 
Conservative party, and to call upon them to support 
the French Liberals in the common cause of freedom. 
Holton at once raised the question in Parliament, de- 
nouncing this "offensive attack" and asking whether it 
had the sanction of the cabinet of which Huntington was 
a member. Mackenzie replied by expressing his regret 
at Huntington's remarks, and his disapproval of raising 
religious issues in politics ; Huntington, while making it 
clear that he spoke only as a private citizen of his prov- 
ince, declared that the opinions he had expressed were 
his opinions still. On the other side of politics, Sir 

138 



FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT 

A. T. Gait took the same stand as Huntington in 
speeches and pamphlets unfolding "the dangers of ultra- 
montanism," but his fellow-Conservative, Thomas 
White, insisted that Protestants, who had been fairly 
treated themselves, should not interfere in the family 
quarrels of the majority, and Macdonald characteristic- 
ally urged that the best policy was "to use the priests for 
the next election but be ready to fight them in the 
Dominion parliament," and insisted that, though their 
arrogance was hard to bear, it could be borne when it was 
remembered that "ultramontanism depends on the life 
of two old men, the Pope and Bishop Bourget." Pru- 
dence prevailed in both political camps, so far as the 
English-speaking Protestants were concerned, and the 
French Catholics were left to work out their own salva- 
tion. 

The seriousness of the situation faced by Quebec Lib- 
erals may well be gauged by a valedictory address of 
one of the foremost journalists of the day. Mr. L. O. 
David, editor of the "Bien Public," was a man not only 
of standing and ability but of unquestioned moderation 
in all affairs, and friendly to the Church, of which he was 
a faithful son; he had been one of the minority which 
seceded from 1'Institut Canadien in 1858, and had 
taken an active part in endeavouring to live down the 
Rouge tradition by the establishment of the Parti 
National. Yet he found his journal banned in parish 
after parish, and in May, 1876, announced his retire- 
ment. "The later pastorals of the Bishop of Montreal," 
he declared, "and the interpretation which had been put 

139 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

upon them by a number of priests, and certain facts 
which I need not mention, have finally convinced me that 
the profession of politics has become intolerable in this 
country to anyone who has more independence of char- 
acter than of purse. In the name of religion, we have 
seen destruction fall upon the political careers of sincere 
and earnest men whose religious convictions have never 
been questioned. The clergy cannot pretend that they 
have reason to fear the Liberals on account of their 
past, for they had absolved them of their past in 1872. 
The Reform party having done nothing since then 
against the clergy and religion, the religious war now 
being waged against it is unjustifiable. . . . The 
pastoral letters of the Bishop of Montreal, which were 
nothing more than articles of the 'Nouveau Monde' 
converted into mandements, are incomprehensible. 
They have stirred prejudices, encouraged bad faith, and 
excited a certain number of priests who needed to be re- 
strained. There are parishes where since then the pul- 
pit has become nothing but a tribune for the most violent 
political harangues. It would appear that there is no 
longer but one crime in the world, but one mortal sin, 
that of voting for a Reform candidate, of receiving a 
Reform journal which questions the infallibility of Sir 
John and Mr. Langevin. ... A Catholic people will 
support such abuses long; they will even shut their eyes 
not to see them in order that their faith may not suffer, 
but as abuses rapidly accumulate when they are not 
controlled, the day arrives when they become intoler- 

140 



FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT 

able and then indifference toward religion and hatred 
toward the priest produce revolution." 

Mr. Laurier, writing to a friend in December, 1875, 
in regard to rumours of his approaching accession to the 
cabinet, makes equally clear the tension of the situa- 
tion: "My name has been put forward, but I never 
made a step towards it. To speak the truth, I do not 
desire an appointment to an official position at present. 
But the press, which in this province is in the hands 
of young men, calls loud for me. The men of more 
mature age desire to have Cauchon in. The fact is, 
that Cauchon has all the qualities of the position, 
but he is so thoroughly unprincipled and so deeply 
stained with the jobberies of the old regime that his ap- 
pointment would perhaps be more an injury than a 

benefit to our cause. As to myself personally, I have 

~ 

the bones and sinew of the Liberal party. They push 
me ahead, and would have me to take a more active part 
in politics than I have done hitherto. I, however, feel 
very reluctant to do it. I am at present quiet and 
happy. The moment I accept office, I will go into it 
actively and earnestly, and from that moment my quiet- 
ness and happiness will be gone. It will be a war with 
the clergy, a war of every day, of every moment. . . . 
Political strifes are bitter enough in your province, but 
you have no idea of what it is with us. ... Whenever 
I shall be in office, I intend to go seriously into it, and 
I will be denounced as Anti-Christ. You may laugh 
at that, but it is no laughing matter to us." 

141 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

Relief from this intolerable situation came from 
various quarters. Appeal was made to the civil courts, 
and the courts set bounds to clerical intervention. Ap- 
peal was made to Rome, and the higher authorities of 
the Church ordained restraint. The Liberals them- 
selves, through Wilfrid Laurier, made a declaration of 
their principles which it was not possible for any rea- 
sonable opponent to attack or any weak-kneed friend 
to renounce. 

The advisability of taking legal action to halt clerical 
intervention in elections had been discussed in Liberal 
quarters for some years. The suggestion had come 
from the action of an Irish court, in 1872, in declaring 
a Galway election void because of the undue influence 
exercised by the clergy on behalf of the successful candi- 
date. The Dominion law against undue influence in 
elections was based on the British statute. Yet the 
moderate men who were in control of the party's policy 
hesitated to take such a step. It would be charged that 
they were trying to deprive the priest of the elementary 
right of every citizen to have opinions and to urge them 
upon one's fellows. Even friends would contend that 
clerical intervention, however biased and uninformed, 
should be met by discussion, not by an appeal to law 
as Liberals were to conclude when, many years later, 
in the closing rather than the opening days of Wilfrid 
Laurier's career, hundreds of Protestant preachers 
throughout Canada were stampeded and manipulated 
into a grossly biased and uninformed pulpit attack 
upon the Liberal party and its leader. But the Charle- 

142 



FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT 

voix outburst determined a courageous group to take up 
the challenge. Appeal was at first made to the arch- 
bishop, but afterwards withdrawn, and in July, 1876, 
Fran9ois Langelier, member of a leading Liberal family 
of Quebec, and professor of Civil Law in Laval, brought 
action in the civil court at Murray Bay. The fact of 
intervention and its effect in changing votes were clearly 
proved. Israel Tarte, who had been Langevin's elec- 
tion agent, conducted his case, browbeating witnesses in 
court and pillorying them afterwards in his newspaper, 
'Le Canadien." The judge was A. B. Routhier, form- 
erly Langevin's right-hand man in politics, and the 
drafter of the Catholic Programme. He dismissed the 
petition, denying that British precedents applied in 
Canada under the differing relations of Church and 
State, and taking high ultramontane ground as to the 
immunity of the clergy from state question or control 
for their actions on a moral issue, such as voting must 
be when properly considered. The case was at once ap- 
pealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, where the 
unanimous decision was rendered that undue influence 
had been exercised and the election was declared void. 
Mr. Justice Ritchie declared that the clergyman, like 
the layman, had free and full liberty to advise and per- 
suade, but no right, in the pulpit or out, to threaten 
or compel a voter to do otherwise than as he freely 
willed. Mr. Justice Taschereau, a brother of the arch- 
bishop, in delivering the main judgment of the court, 
brushed aside the claim of ecclesiastical immunity, found 
proof of "undue influence of the worst kind, inasmuch 

143 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

as these threats and these declarations fell from the lips 
of priests speaking from the pulpit in the name of 
religion, and were addressed to persons ill-instructed and 
generally well-disposed to follow the counsel of their 
cures." In a decision rendered shortly before this ap- 
peal, three judges of the Superior Court of Quebec, 
Messrs. Casault, McGuire and McCord, annulled the 
election held in the provincial constituency of Bona- 
venture, where two cures had threatened to refuse the 
sacraments to Liberal voters, and disqualified the candi- 
date on the ground that "these fraudulent manoeuvres 
were practised with his knowledge and consent." 
Shortly after, the by-election of Chambly was voided. 

The intervention of the law, external and formal in 
its working, could not go to the root of the matter. Of 
more enduring importance was the change of ecclesiasti- 
cal policy, or rather, the assertion of authority by the 
tolerant and far-seeing elements within the Church. 
Mgr. Taschereau, realizing the danger of an open rup- 
ture and the introduction into Canada of a real anti- 
clerical movement, such as the ultramontane editors 
were always seeing in their nightmares, issued in May, 
1876, a pastoral on the Church in politics which took 
much more moderate ground. The pastoral set forth 
the high importance of the elector's task, warned against 
perjury, violence, and bribery, urged calm and careful 
inquiry into the merits of rival candidates and their 
ability to conserve the people's interests, spiritual as well 
as temporal, denied any intention under present cir- 
cumstances of urging the electors to vote for this or that 

144 



FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT 

party and suggested that all join in a solemn mass to 
ensure guidance: this, and no more. True, the arch- 
bishop declared that his new pastoral neither revoked 
nor superseded the joint letter of 1875, but the out- 
burst of indignation from certain other bishops, and 
their action in sending Mgr. Lafleche and Canon 
Lamarche hotfoot to Rome to protest were illuminat- 
ing. 

It was, however, with Rome itself that the last word 
lay. It was to Rome that Bishop Langevin's demand 
for the dismissal of Judge Casault from his chair at 
Laval, because of his judgment in the Bonaventure elec- 
tion, was carried; Rome upheld the professor against 
the bishop. It was to Rome that Conservatives ap- 
pealed in 1876 when they wished to learn whether in a 
Montreal election it was permissible to vote for a candi- 
date who was a Free Mason, seeing that the other candi- 
date was worse (i. e., a Liberal), and Rome replied it 
was permissible. It was to Rome that the bitter and 
interminable disputes between Montreal and Quebec 
over the university question were appealed, and finally 
it was to Rome that in 1876 a group of Quebec Liberals, 
headed by Cauchon, appealed for inquiry and decision on 
the charges brought by their ultramontane opponents. 
The fact that an appeal should be carried to Rome at all 
made it clear how far ultramontanism had triumphed 
over the old Gallican spirit, even among the Liberals, 
but if it was to decide in any case on the ecclesiastical 
issues involved, it was well that the views of both parties 
to the controversy should be before it. 

145 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

At Rome Pius IX was still Pontiff, but his years were 
evidently numbered, and it was an open secret that 
pressure was being brought to bear to ensure that his 
successor should be more in harmony with democratic 
tendencies. It was decided to send Mgr. Conroy, 
Bishop of Ardagh, in Ireland, as Ablegate to investi- 
gate the situation in Canada. He spent several months 
in diligent and unobtrusive inquiry, heard all sides, and 
came to the conclusion that a halt must be called. The 
bishops met in consistory in October, 1877, and issued 
a new pastoral, declaring that while the joint letter con- 
tained the true doctrine on the constitution and rights of 
the Church, and Liberal Catholics were still anathema, 
yet it was not to be assumed that any political party was 
condemned. The forces of moderation and tolerance 
had won. 

While the attitude of the Church was still unde- 
termined, Wilfrid Laurier came forward to perform one 
of the greatest services of his career. His speech on 
political Liberalism, delivered before an immense audi- 
ence on the invitation of the Club Canadien of Quebec, 
on June 26, 1877, was essentially a manifesto of the Lib- 
eral party on the question of the relation of religion and 
politics. Mr. Laurier was about to assume the leader- 
ship of the Liberal party in Quebec: three months later 
he entered the Mackenzie cabinet. In his address at 
Quebec he stated his policy and his terms. At once the 
issue was clarified, the path of moderation and of 
progress marked out, and a great step taken toward the 
just and permanent settlement of an issue which had 

146 



FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT 

threatened to divide a whole people into warring and 
irrreconcilable factions. 

Without preface, Mr. Laurier at once set forth the 
purpose of his address. It was to define the ideas and 
principles of Liberalism, in order to remove the preju- 
dices and the opposition of those who believed that Lib- 
eralism meant heresy in faith and revolution in politics. 
All the charges made against the Liberal party could be 
crystallized in two propositions that Liberalism was a 
heresy condemned by the head of the Church, and that a 
Catholic could not be a Liberal. It was true that Cath- 
olic Liberalism had been condemned, but what had that 
to do with political Liberalism? What would be the 
consequence of accepting the contention that no French- 
Canadian Catholic could be a Liberal? Either Cath- 
olics must abstain from any share in political life, or 
must bind themselves hand and foot to the Conservative 
party, must endure "the ignominy of being regarded by 
the other members of the Canadian family composing 
the Conservative party as tools and slaves." 

What was the meaning of Liberalism and Conserva- 
tism? At bottom the distinction was a matter of tem- 
perament; some men, in Macaulay's phrase, were drawn 
by the charm of habit and others by the charm of novelty. 
There was no moral superiority in either tendency. The 
Conservative might do good in defending old and tried 
institutions, or much evil in maintaining intolerable 
abuses ; the Liberal might be a benefactor in overthrow- 
ing these abuses or a scourge in laying rash hands on 
hallowed institutions. Then Mr. Laurier continued: 

147 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

For my part, as I have already said, I am a Liberal. I am 
one of those who think that everywhere, in human things, there 
are abuses to be reformed, new horizons to be opened up, and 
new forces to be developed. Moreover, Liberalism seems to me 
in all respects superior to the other principle. The principle 
of Liberalism is inherent in the very essence of our nature, in 
that desire for happiness with which we are all born into the 
world, which pursues us throughout life, and which is never com- 
pletely gratified on this side of the grave. Our souls are im- 
mortal, but our means are limited. We constantly strive to- 
ward an ideal which we never attain. We dream of good, but 
we never realize the best. We only reach the goal we have set 
for ourselves, to discover new horizons opening up, which we 
had not before even suspected. We rush on toward them and 
those horizons, explored in their turn, reveal to us others which 
lead us on ever further and further. And thus it will be as 
long as man is what he is, as long as the immortal soul in- 
habits a mortal body; his desires will be always vaster than 
his means and his actions will never rise to the height of his 
conceptions. He is the real Sisyphus of the fable; his work, 
always finished, must always be begun again. This condition 
of our nature is precisely that which makes the greatness of 
man, for it condemns him irrevocably to movement, to prog- 
ress; our means are limited, but our nature is perfectible and 
we have the infinite for our arena. Thus there is always room 
for the perfecting of our nature and for the attainment by a 
larger number of an easier way of life. This, in my eyes, is 
what constitutes the superiority of Liberalism. 

Abuses, Mr. Laurier continued, were bound to creep 
into every body politic, and institutions which at the be- 
ginning were useful become intolerable because every- 
thing around them had changed, as in the instance of 
seigneurial tenure. Men were always found to defend 
these abuses to the bitter end, until they had provoked 
revolution. "More revolutions have been caused by 

148 



FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT 

Conservative obstinacy than by Liberal exaggeration 
. . . ; wherever there is compression, there will be 
explosion, violence and ruin; . . . I hate revolution and 
detest all attempts to win the triumph of opinions by 
violence, but I am less inclined to throw the responsi- 
bility on those who make them than on those who pro- 
voke them by their blind obstinacy." 

The Liberal party of England had known how to 
reform abuse before discontent fermented into revolu- 
tion: the Liberals of the Continent had not been so wise: 

What is grander than the history of the great English Liberal 
party during the present century? On its threshold looms 
up the figure of Fox, the wise, the generous Fox, defending the 
cause of the oppressed, wherever there were oppressed to be 
defended. A little later comes O'Connell, claiming and secur- 
ing for his co-religionists the rights and privileges of British 
subjects. He is helped in this work by all the Liberals of the 
three kingdoms, Grey, Brougham, Russell, Jeffrey and a host 
of others. Then came, one after the other, the abolition of the 
rule of the landed oligarchy, the repeal of the corn laws, the 
extension of the suffrage to the working classes, and lastly, to 
crown the whole, the disestablishment of the Church of England 
as the state religion in Ireland. . . . Members of the Club 
Canadien, Liberals of the province of Quebec, there are our 
models, there are our principles, there is our party! 

It is true that there is in Europe, in France, in Italy and in 
Germany a class of men who give themselves the title of Liberals, 
but who have nothing of the Liberal about them hut the name, 
and who are the most dangerous of men. They are not 
Liberals ; they are revolutionaries ; in their principles they are 
so extravagant that they aim at nothing less than the destruc- 
tion of modern society. With these men we have nothing in 
common, but it is the tactics of our adversaries always to 
identify us with them. 

149 



I 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

Mr. Laurier proceeded to review the history of the 
Canadian political parties. Up to 1848, all French- 
Canadians had belonged to the one Liberal party. 
Then, in the conflict between LaFontaine and Papineau, 
divergence had begun. A group of young men of great 
talent and greater impetuosity, disappointed at having 
come upon the scene too late to stake their heads in 
1837, first followed, then outmarched Papineau. They 
founded "L'Avenir," and issued a programme begin- 
ning with election of justices of the peace and ending 
with annexation to the United States which would have 
meant a complete revolution in the province. Their ex- 
aggerations were not surprising; in Canada, the memory 
of the vengeance exacted for the rebellion and the lack 
of faith of the Colonial Office stirred discontent, while 
from Europe there came great soul-disturbing blasts of 
revolution. The only excuse for these Liberals was 
their youth: the oldest of them was not more than 
twenty-two. Hardly had they taken two steps when 
they recognized their error, but the harm was done: 

The clergy, alarmed at these proceedings, which reminded 
them of the revolutionaries of Europe, at once declared merci- 
less war on the new party. The English population, friendly 
to liberty, but equally friendly to the maintenance of order, also 
ranged themselves against the new party. During twenty-five 
years that party has remained in opposition, though to it be- 
longs the honour of having taken the initiative in all the reforms 
accomplished in that period. It was in vain that it demanded 
and obtained judicial decentralization; it was in vain that it 
was the first to give an impetus to the work of colonization ; it 
was not credited with these wise reforms. It was in vain that 
those children, now grown into men, disavowed the rashness of 

150 



FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT 

their youth; it was in vain that the Conservative party made 
mistake after mistake; the generation of the Liberals of 1848 
had almost entirely disappeared from the political scene ere 
the dawn of a new day began to break for the Liberal party. 
Since that time the party has received new accessions, calmer 
and more thoughtful ideas have prevailed in it, and as for the 
old programme, nothing whatever remains of its social part, 
while of the political part there remain only the principles of the 
English Liberals. 

In the meantime, a fraction of the Liberals had united 
with the Tories of Upper Canada, to form the Liberal- 
Conservative party. Of late years its leaders had 
sought to transform it into an ultramontane or Catholic 
party. They understood neither their country nor their 
time ; all their ideas were modelled on those of the reac- 
tionaries of France. Their chief aim was to degrade 
religion to the level of a political party: 

In our adversaries' party it is the custom to accuse us, 
Liberals, of irreligion. I am not here to parade my religious 
sentiments, but I declare that I have too much respect for the 
faith in which I was born ever to use it as the basis of a political 
organization. You wish to organize a Catholic party ... to 
organize all the Catholics into one party, without other bond, 
without other basis, than a common religion. Have you not 
reflected that by that very fact you will organize the Protestant 
population as a single party, and then, instead of the peace and 
harmony now prevailing between the different elements of the 
Canadian people, you throw open the door to war, a war of 
religion, the most terrible of all wars ? . . . 

Our adversaries further reproach us ... with denying to 
the Church the freedom to which it is entitled. They reproach 
us with seeking to silence the administrative body of the Church, 
and to prevent it from teaching the people their duties as citi- 
zens and electors. They reproach us with wanting to hinder 

151 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

the clergy from sharing in politics and to relegate them to the 
sacristy. In the name of the Liberal party and of Liberal 
principles, I repel this assertion. I maintain that there is 
not one Canadian Liberal who wants to prevent the clergy from 
taking part in political affairs if they wish to do so. 

In the name of what principle should the friends of liberty 
seek to deny to the priest the right to take part in political 
affairs? In the name of what principle should the friends of 
liberty seek to deny to the priest the right to have and to ex- 
press political opinions, the right to approve or disapprove 
public men and their acts, and to instruct the people in what 
he believes to be their duty? In the name of what principle 
should he not have the right to say that if I am elected religion 
will be endangered, when I have the right to say that if my 
adversary is elected, the state will be endangered? . . . No, let 
the priest speak and preach as he thinks best ; such is his right, 
and no Canadian Liberal will dispute that right. . . . Every 
one has the right not only to express his opinion, but to influ- 
ence, if he can, by the expression of his opinion, the opinion of 
his fellow-citizens. This right exists for all, and there can be 
no reason why the priest should be deprived of it. I am here 
to speak my whole mind, and I may add that I am far from 
finding opportune the intervention of the clergy in the domain 
of politics, as it has been exercised for some years. I believe, 
on the contrary, that from the standpoint of the respect due 
his character, the priest has everything to lose by meddling 
in the ordinary questions of politics : still, his right to do so is 
indisputable, and if he thinks proper to use it, our duty, as 
Liberals, is to guarantee it to him against all denial. 

This right, however, is not unlimited. We have no absolute 
rights among us. The rights of each man, in our state of so- 
ciety, end precisely where they encroach upon the rights of 
others. 

The right of interference in politics ends where it would 
encroach upon the elector's independence. . . . 

The constitution of the country rests on the freely expressed 
will of every elector. ... It is perfectly legitimate to alter the 

152 



FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT 

elector's opinion by argument and all other means of per- 
suasion, but never by intimidation. As a matter of fact, per- 
suasion changes the elector's conviction; intimidation does not. 
... If the opinion expressed by the majority of the electors 
is not their real opinion, but an opinion snatched from them by 
fraud, by threats or by corruption, the constitution is violated, 
you have not government by the majority but government by 
the minority. . . . 

I am not one of those who parade themselves as friends and 
champions of the clergy. However, I say this: like the most 
of my young fellow-countrymen, I have been educated by priests 
and among young men who have become priests. I flatter my- 
self that I have among them some sincere friends, and to them 
at least I can and do say: Consider whether there is under the 
sun a country happier than our own ; consider whether there is 
under the sun a country where the Catholic Church is freer or 
more privileged than it is here. Why then should you, by 
claiming rights incompatible with our state of society, expose 
this country to agitations of which the consequences are im- 
possible to foresee? But I address myself also to all my fellow- 
countrymen without distinction, and to them I say: We are 
a free and happy people, and we are so owing to the liberal 
institutions by which we are governed, institutions which we 
owe to the exertions of our forefathers and the wisdom of the 
mother country. The policy of the Liberal party is to protect 
these institutions, to defend and extend them, and, under their 
sway, to develop the latent resources of our country. That is 
the policy of the Liberal party : it has no other. 

At last Liberalism had found the interpreter it sorely 
needed. Rising completely above the level of partisan 
personalities and recriminations, frank in its recognition 
of past errors, moderate in its full and ready recognition 
of the place and rights of the clergy, firm in its insistence 
that these rights ended where intimidation began, inspir- 
ing in its assertion of the eternal and unchanging princi- 

153 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

pies of freedom, sustained in its lofty eloquence, Mr. 
Laurier's luminous and persuasive speech marked a new 
era in the long controversy. Resistance to intolerance 
was given a firm foundation in the unceasing strivings 
of man for full and free expression, and a guiding chart 
in the experience and achievements of English Liber- 
alism. 

Opposition was not at once disarmed by Mr. Laurier's 
calm analysis of the situation, nor by the verdict of the 
papal legate. The ultramontane organs, while admit- 
ting the moderation of his exposition of political Liber- 
alism, insisted that Mr. Laurier was still endeavouring 
to set bounds to the rights and activities of the Church 
and presuming to set himself above his bishops. So 
when the results of Mgr. Conroy's mission were an- 
nounced, Mr. Tarte's journal, "Le Canadien," lamented 
that "concession had followed upon concession, outrage 
upon outrage," and the "Journal de Trois-Rivieres," 
that "the year 1877 may be designated as the epoch of 
concessions and cowardice, the epoch of the triumph of 
Catholic Liberalism." Whereupon Mr. Laurier, in an 
editorial in the "Journal d'Arthabaska" (January 24, 
1878) , entitled ff Les Tartuffes de la Pressed paid his re- 
spects to them once more. For many years, he wrote, 
these Conservative organs had cloaked themselves in the 
mantle of religion and sheltered themselves behind the 
screen of the clergy. It was a clever play, for the Ca- 
nadian loved nothing in the world so much as his religion 
and his clergy, and to identify the cause of Conservatism 
and of the Church was to damn the Liberal party to in- 

154 



FIRST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT 

significance. These editors took "Louis Veuillot as their 
model, and not possessing his talents, at least were able 
to imitate his excesses of speech and his bombastic style. 
The decalogue was revised, corrected, and considerably 
extended by these gentlemen. . . . They posed as 
theologians, twisted the sense of pastorals and mande- 
ments, and, with these documents in their hands, like the 
Pharisee in the Gospel, they pointed at us with the finger 
of scorn and demanded our exile and excommunication. 
The Church, that good mother, allowed these wretched 
enfants terrible* to have their way, but as impunity gave 
them courage, our high and mighty ultramontanes set 
themselves to smashing the whole shop. . . . At last the 
attention of the Holy See was drawn upon these men 
and their outpourings. Wishing to bring to an end so 
deplorable a state of affairs, our Holy Father sent his 
legate, Mgr. Conroy. . . . Now Rome has spoken. 
But what of our high and mighty ultramontanes, 'Le 
Canadien' and 'Le Journal de Trois-Rivieres' ? . . . 
And these are the submissive children of the Church! 
Pouah ! What Tartuff es I" 

The struggle had not ended, but a lull had come in the 
fighting and high and safe ground had been occupied 
and consolidated. Not again for a score of years was 
the question of Church and State thrust into the fore- 
ground. The attitude of Wilfrid Laurier and his fel- 
low-Liberals of Quebec had been effective in averting 
the danger alike of unbridled assertion of ultramontane 
pretensions and of the outburst of an anti-clerical cam- 
paign. The demands for the recognition of the 

155 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

supremacy of the Church over the State, for the repeal 
of the statutes prohibiting undue intervention in elec- 
tions, so far as they applied to the clergy, for the grant- 
ing of civil immunity to ecclesiastics, and for the still 
more complete control of the schools by the Church, 
failed to find assent : ultramontanism reached its climax 
in 1876. Nor did the reaction in the form of anti-cleri- 
calism make much headway. It was only a month be- 
fore Wilfrid Laurier's speech in the capital of New 
France that the leader of the Liberalism of Old France, 
M. Gambetta, had uttered his famous cry to action: 
"Le clericalisme, c'est Vennemi" If the Catholic Church 
in Canada was spared the long and bitter onslaught 
which was to be its fate for the next generation in 
France, it was owing not only to the wisdom of some of 
its own leaders but to the sanity and courage of its lay- 
men who sought, and not in vain, to reconcile faith and 
freedom. 



156 



CHAPTER IV 

THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

Laurier at Ottawa The Forming of the Mackenzie Government 
The Conservative Leadership The Liberal Leadership Mac- 
kenzie and the Old Guard Blake and Canada First Unsettling 
Rivalry Shifting Quebec Lieutenants The Kiel Agitation Lau- 
rier's First Speech Railway-building and Tariff-making Weak- 
ening of the Government Laurier Enters the Cabinet Electoral 
Defeat and Victory The Overthrow of the Administration. 

IN these issues, it was as leader of Quebec Liberalism 
that Wilfrid Laurier spoke. The issues might 
have national consequences, they might be treated 
in a national spirit, but the stage was provincial. Like 
every other Canadian politician of that day, Wilfrid 
Laurier had to make his mark in provincial affairs be- 
fore entering national politics. Canada was still 
merely a formal bracket, a grouping of the provinces 
in which lay the real springs of life and the vital tradi- 
tions of politics. For a time the two fields overlapped. 
Well before the end of his conflict with ultramontanism 
in Quebec, Wilfrid Laurier had begun to take his part 
in the more varied struggles of federal politics. 

His success in the provincial legislature had early led 
to demands that he should go to the federal house, where 
the Liberal contingent from Quebec sadly needed 
strengthening. Ottawa was farther from Arthabaska 
than Quebec, and the federal sessions were slightly 
longer, covering two or even three months blessed con- 

157 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

trast with the six- and eight-month sessions of later days 
but these considerations did not weigh heavily against 
the wider opportunities of the Dominion field. He be- 
came the Liberal candidate for the federal constituency 
of Drummond-Arthabaska in the general election of 
1874, and was returned by a majority of 238. 

The political situation at Ottawa had suddenly been 
transformed. After Confederation, Sir John Mac- 
donald seemed assured of an indefinite lease of power. 
Though a late convert to the federation project, he had 
rendered invaluable service in carrying it through, and 
had reaped from its success more popular prestige and 
political strength than any of his rivals. For five years 
he proved invincible. Then shortly after the general 
election of 1872 had returned the Conservatives again to 
power, though with lessened strength, a storm arose 
from an unexpected quarter and swept the government 
from office. One of the Liberal leaders, Lucius Hunt- 
ington, brought before parliament charges of gross 
corruption in connection with the granting to Hugh Al- 
lan of Montreal, and his associates, the charter for the 
construction of the railway which was to be built to the 
Pacific coast in fulfilment of the terms under which the 
far Western province of British Columbia entered Con- 
federation in 1871. The charges were flatly denied, but 
after a stormy controversy they were proved to the hilt. 
Allan had expended vast sums in securing the support 
of newspapers and the lesser politicians, particularly in 
Quebec, and in contributions to the campaign funds of 
the Conservative party in the election of 1872. Mac- 

158 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

donald and Cartier had themselves demanded and re- 
ceived large contributions for election purposes. Mac- 
donald in vain insisted that there was no connection be- 
tween the contributions and the granting of the charter. 
A wave of public indignation swept the country. 
Many of his own followers, notably Donald A. Smith of 
Hudson's Bay fame, deserted him. In November, 
1873, he resigned, and the Liberal leader, Alexander 
Mackenzie, was called upon to form a ministry. 3 Two 
months later the new premier went to the country and 
came back with a majority of sixty behind him. 

The Liberal party triumphed in 1874 because of its 
opponents' weakness rather than because of its own 
strength. It came to power at a critical time. The 
panic of 1873 and the five years of depression that fol- 
lowed, the inherited promise to build a railway to the 
Pacific, the aftermath of the rising on the Red River, 
would in any case have proved difficult tasks to handle. 
With a party which had not been fused into unity, with 

iThe Mackenzie ministry was formed on Nov. 7, 1873, as follows: 
Alexander Mackenzie (Ontario), Prime Minister and Minister of Public 

Works 

Antoine A. Dorion (Quebec), Minister of Justice 
Albert J. Smith (New Brunswick), Minister of Marine and Fisheries 
Lue Letellier de Saint Just (Quebec), Minister of Agriculture 
Richard J. Cartwright (Ontario), Minister of Finance 
David Laird (P. E. I.), Minister of the Interior 
Isaac Burpee (New Brunswick), Minister of Customs 
David Christie (Ontario), Secretary of State 
Telesphore Fournier (Quebec), Minister of Inland Revenue 
Donald A. Macdonald (Ontario), Postmaster-General 
Thomas Coffin (Nova Scotia), Receiver-General 
William Ross (Nova Scotia), Minister of Militia and Defence 
Edward Blake (Ontario), Minister without Portfolio 
Richard W. Scott (Ontario), Minister without Portfolio 
Lucius Huntington (Quebec, January, 1874-), President of Privy Council 

159 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

the federal leadership distracted by the rivalry of Blake 
and Mackenzie, and with the Quebec lieutenants shift- 
ing with kaleidoscopic quickness, it was not surprising 
that the first term of the Mackenzie government proved 
its last. 

For a quarter-century after Confederation, as for 
many years before it, the Conservative party of Canada 
followed a single leader. Never in Canada's history, 
and rarely in the annals of any other country has any 
man dominated a great political party through so long 
a term as John A. Macdonald. His leadership was not 
wholly unquestioned. At times, severe illness, at 
others, inattention to duties, and again the seemingly 
hopeless load of obloquy and discredit following the 
revelations of the Pacific scandal, threatened his hold. 
Yet never for long. Macdonald's infinite patience 
and resource, his uncanny knowledge of men and the 
motives that moved them, his grip on the popular imagi- 
nation not less for his human failings than for his states- 
man's virtues, the mistakes of his opponents or the 
weakness of his rivals, brought the party humbly and 
gratefully back to the incomparable leader. He was 
primarily an Ontario man, and each of the other prov- 
inces had its own leader, Cartier or Langevin, Tupper, 
Tilley, but the system of dual premiership which had 
marked the Union disappeared under Confederation 
and the prime minister was really first. As year after 
year went by, and "John A." still reigned, his luck be- 
came legendary and his prestige invincible. 

The Liberal party had not such good fortune. It 

160 




ALEXANDER MACKENZIE 
Prime Minister of Canada, 1873-1878 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

had not one chief but many. Leader after leader took 
up the task of vanquishing Sir John, and leader after 
leader laid it down again. Brown, Mackenzie, Blake 
in turn failed or found success but momentary, and 
Laurier won through to power only after his great 
rival had passed from the scene. All were men of 
outstanding personal force, of unquestioned sincerity 
and devotion to their country's good, endowed with 
many of the qualities that stir a people's and a party's 
loyalty. Brown and Blake and Laurier had broad 
constructive vision and a statesmanlike grasp of the 
wider issues of politics, and if Brown did not wholly 
despise the arts of the practical politician, Mackenzie 
and Blake as well as their successor scorned corruption 
and fought it whether in the ranks in front or in the 
ranks behind them. 

In so far as the Conservatives owed their victories 
to the people's belief that they were more national- 
minded, more positive and optimistic in their policies, 
whether of trade development or of railway-building, 
there might be room for dispute but none for despair. 
In so far as they owed their fortune to a greater readi- 
ness to grant or to promise favours to an individual or 
a class at public cost, or to gerrymander a riding or a 
province, it was not surprising that many observers 
grew doubtful of democracy. There is more than the 
loser's disappointment in Mackenzie's word to a friend 
a few days after his defeat in 1878: "The recent verdict 
has shaken my confidence in the general soundness of 
public opinion and has given cause to fear that an 

161 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

upright administration of public affairs will not be ap- 
preciated by the mass of the people. If political crim- 
inals and political chicanery are to be preferred to such 
a course as we pursued, the outlook is an alarming one." 
Whichever of these factors is held the more weighty, 
there was a third of undoubled force the constant 
and disturbing shift in leadership. 

The Liberal party entered the Dominion field under 
a heavy disability. Their opponent was in power, pos- 
sessed of the honey-pots of patronage; they had nothing 
to offer but the stern task of opposition which for years 
to come must be its own reward. True, when the pro- 
ject of Confederation was adopted, Macdonald had 
been steadily losing his grip on his party as well as on 
himself, and the government formed to carry the proj- 
ect through was a coalition in which the Liberals 
had a fair-sized share. But the coalition, and later the 
opportunity of patching up alliances with men from 
the new provinces, gave the master strategist of Cana- 
dian politics a new lease of life. Brown, with all his 
downright and domineering force, could not hold his 
own in the administration against his shrewd and sup- 
ple rival; bitterly disappointed, he shook the dust of 
the cabinet from his feet, and the Liberal tinge soon 
faded out of the coalition. 

From the parties which had existed in the Canadas, 
Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the Conservatives 
were able to build a single Dominion party, controlled 
by a single leader, cemented by office, and supported 
by the general desire that the administration in power 

162 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

should be given a fair opportunity to prove itself in the 
new task. Out of the fragments that remained, in the 
Maritime provinces based on the unstable foundation 
of hostility to the high-handed tactics by which Con- 
federation had been effected, in Quebec still over- 
whelmed by C artier and the clergy, in Ontario divided 
by the seductions of coalition, a new Liberal Opposition 
was formed more slowly. It was not clear who should 
lead this party. In the Maritime provinces Tilley had 
followed Tupper in swearing a lifelong alliance with 
Sir John, and the older champion of Liberalism, Howe, 
would not enter Dominion politics for the time, and 
when he did enter, took an uneasy seat in the govern- 
ment fold. In Quebec Holton and Dorion were of 
leadership quality, but they preferred not to undertake 
the task, both on personal grounds and because of their 
belief that the leader should come from Ontario, then 
the home of militant Liberalism and the province which 
provided the strongest contingent to the party, both in 
numbers and in capacity. It was to Ontario, then, that 
the Liberal party looked for its leader. The chief diffi- 
culty was that Ontario offered not one but many 
leaders. 

Throughout the Union period, George Brown had 
dominated the Liberal party of Canada West. A fiery 
and uncompromising Covenanter, fierce in assault upon 
sectional or religious or racial or class privilege, con- 
structive on occasion, as in his insistence upon the ac- 
quisition of the North- West and his championing of 
Confederation, hard-hitting in parliamentary debate, a 

163 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

whirlwind force in country campaigning, a shrewd and 
tireless organizer, Brown had many qualities of a great 
party leader. But he was too impatient and too sure 
not only of the superiority of his own powers but of the 
Tightness of his own opinions to be able to keep a parlia- 
mentary following contented and in line. His uncom- 
promising bluntness wounded many a possible ally, and 
his unmeasured criticisms of the French-Canadian 
clergy and people made it hopeless for himself or for a 
party which he led to find substantial support in 
the East: "I am a governmental impossibility," he 
once avowed. A serious illness in 1862 robbed him of 
much of his vigour. His entrance into a coalition cabi- 
net, even to carry Confederation, hurt him in some quar- 
ters and his resignation before the task was fully 
achieved, in others. When personal defeat came in 
the general elections of 1867, George Brown deter- 
mined to retire from parliament. But he did not re- 
tire from politics. He was still a power behind the 
scenes, and through the unparalleled ascendancy in 
Ontario journalism of the Toronto "Globe," edited 
first by himself and later by his brother Gordon, he con- 
tinued, if in lessening degree, to form and drive the 
public opinion of the province. 

Alexander Mackenzie had brought his Scotch Radi- 
calism and his dour downrightness to Canada in 1842, 
a year before George Brown arrived similarly freighted. 
But where Brown, trained to journalism, plunged at 
once into politics, Mackenzie, every whit as keen, had 

164 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

first to earn a living in occupations which offered less 
scope. He had left school at thirteen, herded and 
ploughed on Scottish farms, and turned stone-cutter 
before emigrating to Canada as a lad of twenty. 
When John A. Macdonald was building up his law 
practice in Kingston and representing that city in the 
provincial parliament, and Oliver Mowat and Alex- 
ander Campbell, one-time students in Macdonald's 
office, were beginning practice, in the same town Alex- 
ander Mackenzie was dressing or laying stone for the 
doorway of St. Mary's Cathedral or the Martello tower 
at Fort Henry, or the walls of the City Hall, attending 
the local temperance society, joining in the worship of 
the Baptist Church, or debating hotly with his fellow 
workmen the iniquity of the Clergy Reserves or Gover- 
nor Metcalf's last stand for high toryism. Pushing 
farther west, in Sarnia he became in turn a prosperous 
contractor, an editor strong alike on principles and on 
personalities, and then in 1861 member for Lambton in 
the provincial parliament. He declined to walk into 
Macdonald's coalition parlour, was elected a member of 
the first Dominion and of the second provincial parlia- 
ment, joined Blake in 1871 in overturning the govern- 
ment which Sir John had set up in Ontario under his 
clansman and former foe, John Sandfield Macdonald, 
became provincial treasurer under Blake as premier, 
and in 1872, when the abolition of dual representation 
forced both Blake and himself to choose between To- 
ronto and Ottawa, decided for the federal field, but not 

165 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

until he had joined Blake in setting Oliver Mowat 
firmly on the provincial throne that pawky chieftain 
was to occupy for a quarter-century. 

Edward Blake came by other ways to power. His 
father, William Hume Blake, a member of a distin- 
guished Irish family, had come to Canada in 1832, with 
a colony of kinsmen and neighbours who had combined 
to charter a vessel. Finding a backwoods clearing far 
from corresponding to his dreams of a forest estate, the 
elder Blake turned city man and barrister, fought on 
the Liberal side in the struggle for responsible govern- 
ment, entered the Baldwin-LaFontaine cabinet in 1848, 
swept the House on a memorable occasion by his fierce 
exposure of Tory claims to a superior loyalty, was pre- 
vented by the Speaker's intervention from fighting a 
duel with John A. Macdonald, became the first Chan- 
cellor of Upper Canada, and made the name of Blake 
a mark of honour by his high interpretation of the 
judge's calling. Edward Blake, born in 1833 on his 
father's clearing, went through the University of To- 
ronto with high honours, was called to the bar in 1859, 
rose to unquestioned leadership of the equity bar al- 
most at a stroke, became a member of both the federal 
and the provincial parliaments in 1867, and premier of 
Ontario four years later. After a year of office, he 
resigned the premiership to Mowat, and chose a federal 
career. 

Mackenzie and Blake both entered public life pos- 
sessed of a deeply rooted and almost hereditary Liber- 
alism. In nearly every other respect of training, as of 

166 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

temperament, they were poles apart. Mackenzie had 
the self-taught man's unevenness as well as his intensity ; 
Blake's leisurely training had given him a wider culture 
but less driving force. Both had extraordinary memo- 
ries, but Mackenzie's was vertical, furnishing him with 
a store of fact and precedent as to the achievements of 
the good men and the lapses of the sinners through 
many a year of party warfare, while Blake's was hori- 
zontal, enabling him to survey with his mind's eye every 
present angle and every minutest detail of the most 
complicated issue. Mackenzie was the best debater in 
parliament, "a grand man on his legs," as Layrier used 
to say, going straight for his antagonist's weakest 
point with unerring keenness and unsparing stroke; 
Blake was its most masterful and overwhelming logi- 
cian, surveying every phase of the case, fitting argu- 
ment into argument and heaping up demonstration 
upon demonstration until his opponent sank crushed 
under the weight, or until the members were lost in 
mazes of detail; rarely, when deeply moved, passion 
added a force and fire to his words that burned up resist- 
ance. Mackenzie was an admirable partisan, absolutely 
clean, scrupulous and fair, but also absolutely con- 
vinced of the deep sinfulness of his opponents and the 
high righteousness of his own cause; Blake was too in- 
dependent and original a man to wear any party's har- 
ness easily, and too self-absorbed for team-play. Mac- 
kenzie delighted in the fray, and never counted the 
odds; Blake was made for victory rather than for 
the fighting that brought victory. Mackenzie's nature 

167 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

was transparently simple; Blake was reserved, moody, 
the most complex and baffling character in Canada's 
political history. The one had the strength and the 
weakness of clear-cut edges; the other, of vague hori- 
zons and margins of indefinable suggestion. 

Mr. Goldwin Smith, with that thoroughgoing snob- 
bery of which none but the Radical conscious of the 
condescension involved in consorting with other Radi- 
cals is capable, once remarked, in a phrase curiously 
reminiscent of that other Oxford don who snubbed the 
hopes of "Mr. Jude Pawley, stone-mason," that Mac- 
kenzie had been bred a stone-mason and that as premier 
a stone mason he remained. Bigger men than Smith 
saw in all Mackenzie's political achievements the same 
honest efficiency, the same plummet-straight workman- 
ship that marked his masonry. There is on record a 
letter of Mackenzie to George Brown, written in 1872, 
which sets forth in sincere, honourable and pathetic 
words his sense of his own deficiencies and of Blake's 
strong qualities: "I know too well my own deficiencies 
as a political leader to wonder at other people seeing 
them as well. The want of early advantages was but ill 
compensated for by an anxious-enough effort to acquire 
such in the midst of a laborious life, deeply furrowed 
by domestic trials, and it has left me but ill-fitted to 
grapple with questions and circumstances constantly 
coming up in Parliament. I am quite aware of the 
advantages possessed by a leader of men, of high men- 
tal culture and having ample means, especially when 
joined to intellectual power and personal excellence. 

168 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

Therefore I do not wonder at, or complain of, those 
who see in others possessing such, greater fitness for 
the work required of them than myself." 

The call for Blake as leader was not only a recog- 
nition of his high abilities, it was an expression of the 
new spirit in Canadian politics or, more strictly 
speaking, in the Canadian phase of Ontario politics, 
for as yet even men who thought nationally thought 
and worked by provinces. To many men, and particu- 
larly young men, Confederation had opened up new 
horizons. Canada was no longer a backwoods prov- 
ince, it was a half-continent far on the road to nation- 
hood, rich in opportunities which promised it high 
place in the world and threw on its people correspond- 
ing responsibilities. A new pride and confidence 
glowed in many an ardent mind. Colonial depend- 
ence gave way to national aspiration. This was the 
note that Thomas D'Arcy McGee had struck in urging 
Confederation. Brown might see in Confederation a 
means of solving political deadlock and securing "rep. 
by pop."; Macdonald, a new lease of power for himself 
and a new source of strength for his country; Gait 
might catch a glimpse of what the opening of the West 
would mean to the East and devote himself to working 
out a sound financial basis for the new Dominion, but 
it was McGee above all who quickened the hope of a 
new unity and a new reliance. "There is a name I 
would fain approach with befitting reverence," wrote 
William A. Foster in the manifesto of the "Canada 
First" movement in 1871, "for it casts athwart memory 

169 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

the shadow of all those qualities that man admires in 
man. It tells of one in whom the generous enthusiasm 
of youth was but mellowed by the experience of cul- 
tured manhood, of one who lavished the warm love of 
an Irish heart on the land of his birth, yet gave a loyal 
and true affection to the land of his adoption; who 
strove with all the power of genius to convert the stag- 
nant pool of politics into a stream of living water ; who 
dared to be national in the face of provincial selfishness 
and impartially liberal in the teeth of sectarian strife; 
who from Halifax to Sandwich sowed broadcast the 
seeds of a higher national life, and with persuasive elo- 
quence drew us closer together as a people, pointing 
out to each what was good in the other, wreathing our 
sympathies and blending our hopes; yes, one who 
breathed into our New Dominion the spirit of a proud 
self-reliance and first taught Canadians to respect them- 
selves. Was it a wonder that a cry of agony rang 
throughout the land when murder foul and most un- 
natural drank the life-blood of Thomas D'Arcy Mc- 
Gee?" 

National spirit brought discontent with party spirit. 
In the years before Confederation, political life had 
been degenerating into personal vendettas; parties 
were becoming fighting clans, public life a succession 
of bitter feuds. Shrieking personalities were the staple 
of discussion in parliament and in press. A Liberal 
had come to mean a man who feared and hated John 
A. Macdonald; a Conservative, a man who scorned and 
hated George Brown, Now, so many an ardent young 

170 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

man dreamed, the time had come to sweep away all these 
unrealities, to build afresh parties based on ideas, parties 
which could appeal to every province alike and not 
seek to impose on the new provinces the discredited 
leaders and labels of the old, parties that would be con- 
structive and would stand for "Canada First." 

This new nationalism found most significant expres- 
sion in the writings and activities of a group which 
centred in Toronto, with W. H. Rowland and W. A. 
Foster as their leaders. The Canadian National 
Association, in which in 1874 the more active members 
found definite grouping, adopted as its main planks 
consolidation of the Empire and a voice in treaties affec- 
ting Canada; closer trade and eventually political rela- 
tions with the British West Indies; income franchise, 
the secret ballot, compulsory voting and minority repre- 
sentation; the reorganization of the Senate and aboli- 
tion of property qualifications for members of the 
House of Commons; free homesteads; an improved 
militia system under command of trained Dominion offi- 
cers, and the imposition of duties for revenue, so ad- 
justed as to afford every possible encouragement to 
native industry. There was no little vagueness and 
uncertainty as to the channels in which the new national- 
ism was to flow. Some leaned toward economic inde- 
pendence through protection. Of those who empha- 
sized political activities, some urged complete separa- 
tion from Britain, others sought through imperial fed- 
eration the voice in foreign affairs Canada as a mere 
colony was denied, while others were content, without 

171 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

any formal change, to have the interests of Canada 
kept first and her government confided to men, whether 
native-born or Canadians by choice, who were Cana- 
dians through and through. In "The Nation," a weekly 
founded in 1874, they possessed a journal which for its 
brief two years of existence maintained the highest 
standards of independent and informed literary and 
political comment in the record of the Canadian press. 

Distinct from these youthful crusaders, who stood 
ostentatiously aloof from both the old parties, there 
was a wing of the Liberal party with much the same 
ends in view, but believing that a reorganized Liberalism 
was the best means to that end. Men like David Mills, 
the "philosopher of Bothwell," and Thomas Moss, a bril- 
liant young Toronto lawyer who entered the House in 
1873, and who moved the Address on the occasion that 
Wilfrid Laurier seconded it, were keen to broaden the 
issues of party contest. Other Liberals, notably John 
Cameron, editor of the London "Advertiser," the 
"Globe's" most notable rival, chafed at the domination 
of the Browns, and balked at following Mackenzie 
because he was considered an echo of George Brown. 

To men of these varied shades of thinking, Edward 
Blake appeared to be the leader predestined to guide 
Canada out of the bogs of partisanship and colonialism. 
He was a man of outstanding capacity and scrupulous 
integrity. He was a Liberal who could be liberal to 
new ideas and old opponents. Not least, he was a 
Canadian born and bred, determined to assert for his 
country a more distinctive place in the world's affairs. 

172 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

In the first Confederation parliament the Opposition 
had not chosen a leader. The different provincial 
groups had not yet fused into one. Dorion continued 
to lead the Quebec wing, while Smith and Jones mar- 
shalled the Maritime contingents. Blake was a mem- 
ber of the Ontario group, but as he was serving his first 
years of parliamentary apprenticeship, he was not yet 
in the running. Mackenzie, with six years of parlia- 
mentary experience and many more of party service, 
came to the front among the Ontario Reformers when 
Brown retired and McDougall joined Macdonald. 
He soon made his place as virtual leader of the whole 
party, simply because unflagging industry and interest 
and unsparing criticism of every Government weak- 
ness put him at the front of the fray. 

In the Dominion elections of 1872 Mackenzie had 
charge of the Ontario campaign. He fought hard, 
and no small measure of the success which was won in 
that province was due to his campaigning. Through- 
out the contest Blake was absent in Europe, seeking to 
restore the health which overwork at the bar had im- 
paired. Immediately upon the opening of parliament 
Mackenzie raised the question of a formal choice of 
leader. An Ontario committee, Mackenzie, Blake, 
W. B. Richards, Joseph Rymal, and James Young, 
and a Quebec committee, Dorion, Holton, Letellier, 
Huntington and John Young, the Maritime mem- 
bers taking no concerted part, unanimously agreed 
that one leader should be chosen and that he should 
come from Ontario. Blake was their first choice, but 

173 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

though Mackenzie pressed, he declined, on the ground 
that it was not he who had borne the burden and heat of 
the electoral and parliamentary struggles. Macken- 
zie was then urged to accept, declined at first, in view 
of the general recognition of Blake's great potential 
powers, but at last agreed. 

After eight months' service as leader of the Opposi- 
tion, Mackenzie was summoned, in November, 1873, 
to form a ministry, after the Pacific scandal had 
forced the retirement of Macdonald. With much 
difficulty Blake was induced to enter the cabinet. He 
would not, however, undertake any administrative 
tasks, and became a minister without portfolio, an ex- 
pedient then unprecedented in Canadian practice, but 
supported by two British instances; even so, he in- 
formed his constituents that it might not be possible 
for him to continue permanently in the government. 
His presence in the administration, however tentative, 
undoubtedly strengthened it in the general elections 
which followed in January and February, 1874. No 
sooner were the elections completed and a strong ma- 
jority for the government assured than Blake re- 
signed. He declared that his legal responsibilities 
would not permit him to continue in office, even with- 
out departmental duties, and recalled the intimations 
he had given during the election. His critics declined 
to accept this explanation at face value. Conservative 
editors insisted that his resignation made evident a 
want of confidence in Mackenzie's policy. Macdonald, 
in his place in the House, criticized the transaction as 

174 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

an instance of selling under false pretences: the ad- 
ministration had gone to the country as a Mackenzie- 
Blake government, it owed much of the support it 
received to the character and repute of the member for 
South Bruce; it had sold by sample, and one of the 
strongest claims for the cabinet cloth was that it con- 
tained a strong fibre all the way from Bruce, that would 
stand sun, wind or rain ; now, that fibre was withdrawn 
before delivery, and the people were saying, "We have 
had palmed off upon us the same old brown stuff." 

In October, 1874, Blake delivered a speech to a 
Liberal county convention at Aurora, which raised 
the hopes of the progressive wing and the ire of the 
standpatters. After developing the issues on which he 
was in agreement with the whole party, endorsing the 
efficient and economical administration of Mowat in 
Ontario, and urging the construction of the Canadian 
Pacific Railway with a view to the expansion of settle- 
ment on the prairies rather than to the immediate ful- 
filment of the rash undertaking to pierce British Colum- 
bia's "sea of mountains," he then proceeded to sug- 
gest new fields to explore. Compulsory voting, based 
on the recognition of the franchise as a sacred trust; 
extension of the suffrage, then limited to property 
owners, by adding farmers' sons and income schedules ; 
representation of minorities by some modification of 
the Hare system, and reform of the Senate were all 
urged with reasoned force. Some change in imperial 
relations was imperative: "Matters cannot drift much 
longer ^s they have drifted hitherto. The Treaty of 

175 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

Washington produced a very profound impression 
throughout this country. It produced a feeling that at 
no distant period the people of Canada would desire 
that they should have some greater share of control 
than they now have in the management of foreign 
affairs. . . . This is a state of things of which you have 
no right to complain, because so long as you do not 
choose to undertake the responsibilities and burdens 
which attach to some share of control in these affairs, 
you cannot fully claim the rights and privileges of 
free-born Britons in such matters. . . . The time will 
come when that national spirit which has been spoken 
of will be truly felt among us, when we shall realize 
that we are four millions of Britons who are not free/' 
Blake recognized that he was departing from the 
usual path set for the leaders of a party when in power. 
"I know," he concluded, "that I have made a rather 
disturbing speech, but I am not afraid of that. Not 
much good can be done without disturbing something 
or somebody. I may be said also to have made an im- 
prudent speech; at least that might be said if I were 
one of those who aspire to lead their fellow-countrymen 
as ministers. It is the function of a minister to say 
nothing that can be caught hold of, nothing in advance 
of the public opinion of the day, and to catch the current 
of that opinion when it has gathered strength, and 
crystallize it in Acts of Parliament. That is the func- 
tion of a Liberal minister. The function of a Tory 
minister is to wait until he is absolutely forced to swal- 
low his own opinions. It may be permitted to one who 

176 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

prefers to be a private in the advance-guard of the 
army of freedom to a commanding place in the main 
body, to run the risk of promulgating what may be a 
political heresy to-day and may perhaps become a polit- 
ical creed to-morrow." 

That the suggestions thus freely thrown out were 
disturbing to the old guard was sufficiently indicated 
by the fact that the "Globe," though publishing the 
speeches of lesser lights delivered later in the proceed- 
ings, held over Blake's speech until an editorial counter- 
blast could be prepared. In a series of editorials 
Blake's Canadian Pacific policy was endorsed, and a 
tribute paid to his vigour and independence, but there 
agreement ended. Senate reform was premature, com- 
pulsory voting a fad, the revision of imperial relations 
an academic issue: Canada was suffering from no injus- 
tice, conscious of no hampering and degrading influ- 
ence exerted by her colonial status. Throughout the 
winter the discussion continued. The "Globe's" criti- 
cism was nominally directed against the Canada First 
group, and particularly against Goldwin Smith, the 
Oxford professor who had recently, after a temporary 
sojourn in Cornell, made Toronto his home, and who 
was a particularly shining and vulnerable mark because 
of his well-known belief that Canada must find her 
future in union with the United States as Scotland had 
found her opportunity in union with England. The 
"Globe" poured scorn upon the "sucking politicians," 
"the Canada First mischievous little snakes in the 
grass," "the diseased self-consciousness and absurd 

177 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

pretensions of these praters of Nationalism," and upon 
their programme, of which "every plank was calculated 
to inspire sensible men with wonder if not with ridicule 
and contempt," and the whole likened to Milton's 
"asinine feast of sow thistles and brambles." The 
Toronto "Mail," the leading Conservative organ, gave 
no more sympathy; the Canada First group were 
"beardless boys," and their proposals "the innocent 
work of bumptious lads who have not cut their eye-teeth 
in politics." But the "Globe" was the more fierce and 
pertinacious, for it was its camp that was threatened; 
"it is the shades, not the colours that fight," as the 
French proverb has it. 

The Blake wing of the Liberal party, finding the 
necessity of having a daily newspaper of their way of 
thinking in Toronto, established in January, 1875, the 
"Liberal," edited by John Cameron of the London 
"Advertiser." From the beginning the friction be- 
tween the two guides of Liberalism was apparent, but 
it flamed out when the test issue of Senate reform was 
urged. In March, David Mills succeeded in having 
a resolution in favour of an elective Senate passed by 
the Commons by a vote of 77 to 74. Mackenzie as 
well as Blake, Holton, Huntington and three-fourths 
of the Liberals supported Mills; the others joined the 
Conservatives in opposition; Laurier was not present. 
The "Globe," not less incensed because George Brown 
had only the year before been appointed to the Senate, 
at once fell upon the proposal as a senseless tearing up 
of the constitution by the roots to see if it was growing; 

178 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

the people wanted to let well enough alone, wanted 
sound administration, not constitution-mongering and 
change for change's sake. It sneered at Mills as a 
meagrely educated school-teacher whose limited success 
did not entitle him to speak disparagingly of the men of 
substance and standing who constituted the Senate, and 
scolded those Liberals who would interfere with the 
"beneficial movement" by which, as Conservative sena- 
tors died off, Liberals took their place. The "Liberal" 
retorted that the "Globe's" criticism proved the need 
for a real Liberal newspaper. The "Globe" had once 
done good service to party and country by its outspoken 
advocacy of reform; to-day it was an exponent of dyed- 
in-the-wool Toryism, entitled to its own views, but not 
entitled to dictate to the party: "In the days that are 
now past and so long as the 'Liberal' lives shall never 
come again, the 'Globe' hounded down with vindic- 
tive bitterness and without permission of self-defence 
every Reformer who differed in opinion from it; ... 
it may as well understand that the day has passed when 
it can decide by its mere ipse dixit who shall and who 
shall not be leaders and members of the Liberal party." 
Suddenly these controversies ceased. In May, 1875, 
after a last display of independence in opposing Mac- 
kenzie's concession to British Columbia in the matter 
of the Pacific railway, Edward Blake re-entered the 
Mackenzie cabinet, taking the portfolio of Justice. 
His supporters were uncertain whether his action was 
a triumph or a defeat, whether it meant that he had con- 
cluded he could best revive the party from within, or 

179 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

whether he had concluded to abandon his efforts alto- 
gether. It did not mean immediate harmony. The 
"Globe," though welcoming the return of an able minis- 
ter, intimated the hope that the Council Chamber would 
bring a sense of responsibility which would lessen his 
tendency to raise disturbing abstract propositions, and 
found in his first speech as minister, "evidence that Mr. 
Blake can sink the doctrinaire in the public servant." 
It continued its flings at the few young and excitable 
Liberals who had tried but in vain to feel keenly about 
this and that, at their fancy grievances and their pro- 
grammes which never had come home to the business 
and bosoms of men. The "Liberal" ceased publication, 
but the influence of the Blake wing was seen in the re- 
tirement shortly afterward of Gordon Brown from the 
editorship of the "Globe," and the appointment of John 
Cameron in his stead. 

For two years Blake served as Minister of Justice. 
The post was particularly congenial in that it gave 
scope for his mastery of constitutional principles and 
his policy of extending Canada's national powers. In 
a series of controversies with the Colonial Office, 
Blake stood firmly for carrying the principles of re- 
sponsible government to their logical conclusion. He 
protested vigorously against a revision of the governor- 
general's instructions to conform with those designed 
for Crown colonies, making the governor-general 
once more what he had long ceased to be, a member 
of the working executive, and authorizing him to act 
independently of his advisers. He pressed for the 

180 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

abandonment of the instructions requiring the governor- 
general to reserve for the consideration of the British 
government bills on certain subjects enacted by the 
Canadian parliament. He contended that the preroga- 
tive of pardon should be exercised by the governor- 
general, as in the case of other powers, on ministerial 
advice. He insisted that the power of disallowing pro- 
vincial statutes was vested by the British North America 
Act in the governor-general in Council, that is, the 
cabinet, not in the governor-general acting on his own 
discretion or under London advice. In each and all 
he won his point, and contributed materially to the rec- 
ognition of Canada's national status. In all these 
measures he had the warm support of Mackenzie, 
though when it came to discussions of a more sweeping 
change in imperial relations, Mackenzie had little 
sympathy with Blake's tentative acceptance of imperial 
federation. 

In June, 1877, once more on the ground of ill-health, 
Blake resigned his portfolio and took the nominal post 
of President of the Council. Six months later, he re- 
tired from the cabinet altogether. Mackenzie repeat- 
edly offered to make way for him. "From the first," 
he wrote in 1877, "I was more willing to serve than to 
reign, and would even now be gladly relieved from a 
position the toils of which no man can appreciate who 
has not had the experience. I pressed Mr. Blake in 
November, 1874, to take the lead, and last winter I 
again urged him to do so, and this summer I offered to 
go out altogether, or serve under him, as he might 

181 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

deem best in the general interest." But Blake would 
neither consent to displace Mackenzie nor rest content 
as his follower. 

It was not merely in the party as a whole that diffi- 
culties of leadership arose. The Quebec wing of the 
party had troubles of its own. While Mr. Laurier 
shared in the interest in the Blake-Mackenzie duel, he 
was more immediately concerned in the leadership of 
the Liberal contingent from his own province. 

Quebec was the government's weakest quarter. The 
tidal wave of repudiation of the Macdonald government 
had increased the Quebec Liberal representation from 
27 out of 65 to 33, but leaders were lacking and the al- 
legiance of several of the rank and file uncertain. 
Antoine Aime Dorion, for twenty years the Rouge 
chieftain and the leader of the Quebec bar, was re- 
tiring from politics. He had established a reputation 
beyond cavil for integrity and single-minded devotion 
to the country's interest, and carried weight not only 
in Quebec but throughout the Dominion. Yet his heart 
was not in the game of politics; he could never throw 
himself into the battles of the hustings or take delight 
in parliamentary intrigues with the whole-hearted 
abandon of his opponent, Cartier. Twenty years of 
public life had left him not only poor but heavily in 
debt, and the wishes of his family weighed heavily 
against the demands of his party. Six months after 
taking office in the Mackenzie cabinet, and a year after 
death had carried Cartier off the scene, Antoine Dorion 
resigned to become Chief Justice of Quebec. 

182 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

His colleague, Letellier de Saint- Just, was a man of 
average ability, and of much more than average deter- 
mination and sense of dignity ; he had won a place by his 
persistent fighting of the Rouge battles in eastern Que- 
bec since 1851, and was destined after he too resigned in 
1876 in order to take the lieutenant-governorship of 
Quebec, to become the occasion of a famous constitu- 
tional crisis. Telesphore Fournier, who held in turn the 
portfolios of Inland Revenue, Justice and the Post- 
Office, was a man of greater capacity, who for years had 
carried on a vigorous but hopeless fight in the Quebec 
district against Conservative and clerical, only winning 
his way to the Commons when too firmly set in his ways 
to be able to repeat in the House the success he had won 
at the bar. Fournier resigned in 1875 to become a 
member of the Canadian Supreme Court which he had 
taken the leading part in establishing. Dorion's place 
was taken by Felix Geoffrion, who proved a very good 
administrator, and when a serious illness forced him to 
resign in 1876, Rodolphe Laflamme, Mr. Laurier's one- 
time preceptor in the law, and another uncompromising 
Rouge champion, succeeded, only to meet Fournier's 
difficulty of adjusting himself to the ways of parlia- 
ment. Letellier's post as Minister of Agriculture was 
taken by C. A. P. Pelletier, an urbane gentleman who 
found his place at the same time in the Senate. When 
Fournier retired, Mackenzie, hard put for a successor, 
made a choice difficult to reconcile with his own char- 
acter and his party's traditions. For thirty years 
Joseph Cauchon had been active in public life, vigorous 

183 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

in parliamentary debate, and in his newspaper, "Le 
Journal de Quebec," as slashing, aggressive and power- 
ful as George Brown himself. He had been an uncom- 
promising Conservative and a thoroughgoing up- 
holder of clerical claims until shortly after Confedera- 
tion, when disappointed ambition and quarrels over rail- 
way projects set him adrift from his old friends. He 
was a man of unquestioned force, and still a power with 
the clergy. Mackenzie's action in offering him a 
cabinet seat might have been defended had it not been 
for his reputation for corruption. A parliamentary in- 
quiry in 1872 had branded him as secretly interested in 
government contracts with the Beauport Asylum while 
himself a member of the provincial legislature. Sir 
John Macdonald might have appointed him, and the 
Opposition could not have shouted "robbery and cor- 
ruption" louder than they were already and always do- 
ing, but for God-fearing, broad-phylacteried Liberals, 
and particularly a man so personally upright and so im- 
patient of dishonour as Mackenzie, the appointment was 
a fatal blunder. It was with relief that many Liberals 
saw Cauchon accept the lieutenant-governorship of 
Manitoba in 1877, and make way for Wilfrid Laurier. 

These kaleidoscopic and unsettling changes, the ap- 
pointment of member after member to the cabinet only 
to leave it for a safer and more profitable billet, and 
the unfortunate selection of Cauchon, prevented the 
Liberal party from building up a strong position in 
French-speaking Quebec. Nor was the position wholly 
satisfactory with regard to the leadership of the English- 

184 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

speaking Liberals of the province. Luther Holton, 
who had entered politics after making a comfortable 
fortune out of the building of a section of the Grand 
Trunk Railway, had for many years been the Liberals' 
financial expert, and a man of weight and judgment in 
the party councils. Yet the claims of Huntington, who 
had launched the Pacific charges which had driven the 
Conservatives from office, could not be denied. Holton 
continued to give Mackenzie support that was unswerv- 
ingly loyal, but not as effective as if he had been with- 
in the cabinet, while Huntington's somewhat easy-go- 
ing ways lessened the contribution his independent turn 
of mind and vigorous power of debate might otherwise 
have made. 

Writing in the summer of 1874 to James Young, 
Mr. Laurier comments on the party situation in his own 
province : 

I am now busy with courts and judges and have been so ever 
since the close of the session. I argued a case some time ago, 
in the Court of Appeal, before the new Chief Justice, Dorion. 
He is an admirable judge, but as you truly say, his absence 
greatly weakens the cabinet. ' 

We, the Lower Canada Reformers, claim that we have acted 
like patriots in this matter: we have unhesitatingly sacrificed 
our party to our province. Dorion's appointment to the bench 
is an irretrievable loss to our party, but it is an incalculable 
advantage to our province. The bench of the province, for 
many years past, has been every day more and more sinking 
into contempt and scorn. Dorion was the very man to raise it 
up again to its former position. His accession to the high of- 
fice of Chief Justice has been hailed by all classes and creeds in 
Lower Canada. 

But to us as a party, it is a loss which cannot be made up. 

185 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

We have no man in Quebec who can lead the party. Fournier 
is not that one; Letellier still less. The man who will come 
nearest to the point is Geoffrion. Geoffrion has many good 
qualities : he is clever, shrewd, smooth, and understands human 
nature thoroughly. Were there more in him of the speaker 
or the thinker, he would make a consummate leader. Such as 
he is, he will be our leader, and it is well that it should be so. 
He will perhaps not do as much for the fame of the party as 
one would desire, but he will do more for rooting the party in 
the people than any other one could do. 

Writing to the same correspondent in October, 1876, 
Mr. Laurier refers to the situation as it had developed in 
the two years intervening: 

First let me give you the information you ask. As to my- 
self, I am perfectly well. My health, which has always been 
delicate, is getting decidedly better and better. I hope to see 
the day when I shall be as fat and rosy as my friend Mousseau. 

I wish I could speak as cheerfully of the political situation in 
this province. But the plain, unvarnished truth is that our 
party is going to the dogs in Quebec. I am fully convinced 
that the next elections will make a terrible sweep in our ranks. 
. . . Now, you ask me, what is the cause of our going down? 
The cause is not uniform all through the province. In the 
cities, the protection cry is hurting us ; there can be no doubt 
of it, especially in Montreal. . . . The great cause of our 
weakness is the old everlasting one: the hostility of the priests. 
. . . But there is another cause which, within the ranks of the 
Liberal party itself, is doing us more harm than clerical hos- 
tility. Our government is sorely disappointing our friends. 
Notwithstanding priestly tyranny, the Liberal party, so long 
as it was in opposition, could and did count upon a vigorous 
minority. It was- composed of men at once enthusiastic and 
disinterested. When the Conservatives were turned out, the 
expectations of our people were at once raised to a high pitch. 
They expected, they were sure, that the new government would 
at once enter upon a career of reforms, and that the abuses 

186 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

which had grown up under Conservative rule would be crushed 
down. I am free to admit that amongst the illiterate class, 
many of these expectations were absurd, and that what in their 
eves were abuses were administrative necessities. However, 

H 

the fact is there, we have done nothing. Except the creation 
of the Supreme Court, we have not passed a law of any impor- 
tance, and the idea of the Supreme Court is not ours. I cer- 
tainly admire the great qualities of Mackenzie, but he has no 
zest to carry a party on. His policy is at once cautious and 
honest, but it is not progressive. 

After all, I am French, and you will perhaps think that my 
French nature unconsciously makes me long for a little bit of 
revolutionary excitement, but I do not believe so. We must 
give something to public opinion, or we die. Our adversaries 
can and do prey upon prejudices; they keep their people to- 
gether by a constant appeal to prejudices. While we were in 
opposition, we always had schemes and devices to discuss and 
suggest, but now we do nothing, and the reproach which I often 
hear amongst the Rouges is this: what difference is there be- 
tween this and the late government? Still the Rouges will not 
go over to the other side ; that is quite certain, but they will not 
fight. And it seems to me that even in Ontario, in the great 
centre of Reform and Liberalism, reform and liberalism are 
not in the ascendancy. 

With us, however, it is still worse. You have strong men 
in the cabinet, but we are weak. I of course except Hunting- 
ton, of whom I think a great deal. I except also poor Geof- 
frion, though he is perhaps forever lost. I refer to the other 
two. I refer to them without any comment, because you know 
them. I should, however, judge that you do not know them, 
since you believe that they will think of retiring. As to 
Cauchon, he never will think of going out as long as he will 
not have brought the government into some dirty and dis- 
graceful scrape. It is of no use to speculate who will be their 
successor. A more appropriate question would be, who shall 
be tall David's [David Laird's] successor? Will it be yourself, 
or Mills or John McDonald? The gods keep their secret, as 

187 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

yet, but two things which are now known give me unbounded 
pleasure: the next man will be an Ontario man and he will be 
an up and down Grit. . . . 

Aside from difficulties as to leadership, and in Que- 
bec the hostile attitude of an important section of the 
clergy, the Liberal party in the seventies faced three 
serious issues, the Kiel agitation, the demand of the 
West for the speedy construction of the Pacific railway, 
and the world-wide trade depression which brought a re- 
vival of protectionism in its wake. 

The Kiel agitation was an unfortunate aftermath of 
Canada's bungling in handling its first difficult task of 
national expansion. The development of the American 
West had long directed attention to the possibilities of 
the vast British territory to the northward, under the 
control of the Hudson's Bay Company. For years be- 
fore Confederation Brown and McDougall had urgently 
demanded that Canada should acquire this heritage, to 
which the enterprise of French-Canadian explorers 
under the old regime gave the province some legal claim. 
With the enlarged resources and the new national aspi- 
rations that Confederation brought, the dream of west- 
ward expansion became real. Within four years after 
1867, the bounds of the Dominion had been extended 
to the Pacific, and its territory multiplied eightfold. 

When, in 1870-71, the Dominion government pro- 
vided for the entry of British Columbia into the federa- 
tion, the negotiations were conducted with the represen- 
tatives of the Pacific colony's ten thousand white settlers 
on a footing of equality, and generous, even extravagant 

188 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

terms, including the promise to build a railway through 
trackless wastes to the Pacific within ten years, were 
offered. When, two years earlier, the same government 
had sought to bring the vast territory between the Great 
Lakes and the Rockies under its sway, it paid no heed 
to the wishes of the twelve thousand whites and half- 
breeds gathered in the valley of the Red River. Nego- 
tiations were carried on with the British government 
and the governors of the Hudson's Bay Company; 
money was paid to extinguish the company's rights, but 
no step was taken to discuss with the people of the 
country the terms under which they and their lands were 
to be transferred to a new allegiance. 

The situation was one that needed care. With the 
authority of the Hudson's Bay Company steadily slip- 
ping from its grasp, and its representatives on the spot 
convinced that the financial magnates in London had 
sacrificed the working partners, and therefore unwill- 
ing to exert themselves to aid the establishment of the 
new regime; with half the community made up of 
French half-breeds, used to the free life of voyageur, 
buffalo-hunter or transport-driver, and apprehensive of 
a flood of alien and disdainful immigrants unsettling 
their old ways of life; with thousands of Scottish half- 
breeds, less unruly, but dubious also of newcomers ; with 
a Canadian colony already in the settlement, urging for 
years annexation to Canada, and some of its members 
foolishly boasting how the backward elements would 
have to make way when the tide of progressive Canadian 
settlers poured in; with priests like Father Ritchot in 

189 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

full and active sympathy with the fears and hopes of 
their parishionres ; with Minnesota traders and profes- 
sional Fenian raiders across the border anxious to swing 
the settlement into the American orbit, it was imperative 
to take steps to ensure the Red River settlement a voice 
in its own future governing. No such steps were taken, 
and the action of the Canadian government in starting 
surveys in half-breed settlements before the transfer, 
and the greedy staking out of lands by members of offi- 
cial missions gave positive ground for alarm. 

Out of this friction and muddle conflict rapidly de- 
veloped. Many men played a part in the succession of 
blunders and misunderstandings which marked the in- 
terregnum between the rule of the company and the 
rule of Canada. Joseph Howe, long leader of Nova 
Scotia's fight against being coerced into Confederation, 
now won over to acquiescence and a seat in the cabinet, 
with special charge of the Western Territories, paid a 
flying visit to Red River in the fall of 1869, and whether 
merely through declining to take sides with the Canadian 
faction or because, in McDougall's words, of "seditious 
talk and bibulous fraternization with rebels," undoubt- 
edly encouraged resistance. William McDougall, ap- 
pointed lieutenant-governor of the territory he had done 
more than any other man to keep before the mind of 
Canada, reached Pembina before the formal transfer of 
the territory to the Dominion, only to be blocked at the 
border by a French half-breed band, and there held, 
fuming and fretting, issuing unwarranted proclama- 
tions and rashly seeking to rouse the English settlers 

190 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

against the "rebels," until, disavowed and embittered, he 
was forced to return to Ottawa. Governor McTavish, 
of the Hudson's Bay Company, ill, resentful of the 
change, convinced that annexation to the United States 
was inevitable, supinely bowed to the insurgents' every 
demand. Louis Riel, a native of the settlement, edu- 
cated at Montreal for the priesthood but drawn by his 
wayward temper and heterodox views into other paths, 
now made himself the champion of the half-breeds' 
cause, broke up the surveyors' operations, blocked Mc- 
Dougall's entry, seized, without resistance, Fort Garry 
and the company stores, and set up a provisional 
government. "Abandoned by our own government, 
which had sold its title to this country," he declared, they 
must refuse to accept "a governor whom Canada, an 
English colony like ourselves, ignoring our aspirations 
and our existence as a people, forgetting the rights of 
nations and our rights as British subjects, sought to im- 
pose upon us without consulting or even notifying us." 
William O'Donoghue, a student for the priesthood, of 
strong Fenian leanings, plotting annexation, and Am- 
broise Lepine, a half-breed of herculean build and more 
moderation of temper, backed Riel. 

The government at Ottawa, awakened by this unex- 
pected resistance, took a conciliatory attitude, send- 
ing commissioners, in turn Colonel de Salaberry, Vicar- 
General Thibault, Donald A. Smith and Bishop Tache, 
hastily summoned from Rome to shepherd his wander- 
ing flock, to explain their benevolent intentions, and 
agreeing to receive delegates from the settlement. 

191 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

Meanwhile Kiel's authority had been challenged by a 
group of Canadians who fortified the house of their 
leader, Dr. Schultz, and later by a badly organized band 
of English settlers. Both movements failed. The 
second was particularly unfortunate, coming just when 
the great majority of the old settlers, English as well as 
French, had come together in a convention to support 
the demand for terms, and when Donald A. Smith's 
extremely cautious diplomacy had undermined Kiel's 
authority. The challenge and its failure increased 
Kiel's prestige ?ind, what was more ominous, inflamed 
his erratic temper. To strike a lesson home he haled 
one of the prisoners before a court martial and after a 
farcical trial had him brutally shot. It was a fateful 
blunder. The blood of Thomas Scott called for ven- 
geance. Ontario insisted that no truce or terms could 
be made with murderers ; Quebec, that the execution was 
a political act, not to be held against individuals. The 
cabinet at Ottawa tried to follow a double course. To 
meet Ontario's demands it sent an armed expedition 
under Colonel Wolseley to enforce order. To satisfy 
Quebec, it discussed terms with the delegates from the 
North- West, Judge Black, Father Ritchot and A. H. 
Scott, and agreed to grant the community the status of 
a province, the half-breeds generous holdings of land or 
scrip, and the Church its schools. By the fall of 1870 
all was quiet on the Red River. 

Peace did not so soon follow in eastern Canada. 
Here was ample tinder to relight the fires of sectarian 
and racial controversy. Ontario saw only that an On- 

192 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

tario man, and an Orangeman at that, had been brutally 
murdered at the command of a French Catholic "rebel." 
Quebec saw only a struggle for the assertion of just 
rights against scornful neglect, in which the execution 
by constituted authority of a troublesome prisoner was 
an unfortunate but minor incident. Nor was this all. 
Below the individual issues and the specific incidents of 
the conflict there waged a clash of wills as to the national 
future of the West. Ontario, aware of its superior en- 
terprise, eager to find an outlet for home-seekers to rival 
the Western States, and deeply suspicious of French 
and Catholic Quebec, looked for the building up of new 
Ontarios in the vast prairies. Quebec, disappointed at 
finding its position under Confederation less influential 
than had been hoped, proudly mindful that it was dar- 
ing French- Canadian explorers who had opened up the 
Western country, and anxious to stem the tide of habit- 
ant migration to New England mills, equally naturally 
hoped that a French-Canadian province would arise in 
the West to redress the balance. 

The specific issue was the punishment of those respon- 
sible for the death of Scott. For years this question 
bedeviled Canadian politics. Both parties sought to 
turn to political account the passions it raised and both 
found that it was easier to arouse passion than to allay 
it. The Liberals of Ontario, themselves carried away 
by the popular indignation against Kiel, or unable to 
resist the temptation to turn the normally Conservative 
Orange vote against the government, denounced Mac- 
donald for trafficking with treason, and even so cautious 

193 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

and judicial a man as Edward Blake, on becoming 
premier of Ontario in 1871, carried a resolution through 
the local house offering a reward of $5,000 for the arrest 
of any or all of the slayers of Scott. The Liberals of 
Quebec, equally pleased to be able for once to have pop- 
ular prejudice on their side, attacked the government for 
not granting unconditional amnesty for all the incidents 
in a conflict for which that government was itself mainly 
to blame. Macdonald was still more adroit at this 
double game, exclaiming to an Ontario audience, 
"Where is Kiel? God knows: I wish I could lay my 
hands on him," at the very time that his agents were 
paying Riel and Lepine secret service money to induce 
them to keep out of the country and avert the crisis their 
arrest would bring. After the fall of the Macdonald 
government had tranf erred to Mackenzie the responsi- 
bility for pardoning the offenders the responsibility 
for taking action against them lay with the provincial 
government the Conservative forces in Ontario and 
Quebec were free to follow the tactics of their opponents 
in attacking from diametrically opposite directions. 
The Maritime provinces were throughout little con- 
cerned in what was virtually a Quebec-Ontario duel, and 
in Manitoba itself, where the races were evenly balanced, 
politicians walked much more warily than in the 
provinces where one could safely bluster to sympathetic 
majorities. 

Controversy raged as to whether an amnesty for 
offences before the territory was formally incorporated 
lay within the jurisdiction of the imperial or of the 

194 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

Canadian government, and as to whether it had been 
explicitly or implicitly promised. It was urged that 
Bishop Tache, when sent as the federal government's 
commissioner, had been authorized to promise amnesty, 
but it was replied that the execution of Scott did not 
occur until after Mgr. Tache had left Ottawa, though 
before he reached Fort Garry. It was urged that on a 
later visit to Ottawa, Mgr. Tache had been assured par- 
don for all offenders by the governor-general and by 
Cartier, then acting premier ; and while there was some 
misunderstanding as to these interviews, it was proved 
that Cartier at least had given strong assurances. The 
reception of the delegates from the settlement was held 
to constitute a recognition of the provisional govern- 
ment, though in reply Macdonald insisted the delegates 
were not from Kiel but from the Convention. Kiel's 
retirement in 1872 from the electoral contest in the 
Manitoba constituency of Provencher to make way for 
Cartier, defeated in Montreal, was another incident 
difficult to explain away. Finally, the action of Lieu- 
tenant- Cover nor Archibald, McDougall's successor, in 
asking and receiving the aid of Riel and Lepine in 
repelling a threatened Fenian invasion of Manitoba in 
1871, was held to wipe out all old scores. 

Two incidents brought the issue to a head. In 1873, 
after long obstruction by those in authority, warrants 
were issued for the arrest of Riel and Lepine, who had 
returned to Red River. Riel escaped; Lepine stood his 
trial, and in November, 1874, was condemned to death. 
Earlier in the year, Riel, who had been elected for 

195 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

Provencher after Carrier's death, made his way east, and 
when parliament opened in March, crossed the river 
from Hull, presented himself at the office of the Clerk 
of the House, took the oath, signed the roll and walked 
out before the astounded clerk realized who stood be- 
fore him. Then after a canny but unsuccessful attempt 
to collect his mileage, Kiel disappeared. On April 15 
Mackenzie Bowell, a leading Ontario Conservative and 
Orange Grand Master, seconded by Dr. Schultz, now 
member for Lisgar, moved the expulsion of Riel as a 
fugitive from justice. Luther Holton, seconded by 
Malcolm Cameron, moved an amendment to suspend 
proceedings pending the report of the committee lately 
appointed to inquire into the claim that a full amnesty 
had been promised or implied by the late government or 
its representatives. J. A. Mousseau and L. F. Baby, 
Quebec Conservatives, moved as an amendment to the 
amendment that an address be issued for a full and im- 
mediate amnesty. 

The issue thus raised cut across party lines. Mem- 
bers of the cabinet took opposite sides. Ontario and 
Quebec lined up in more clear-cut opposition than on 
any other vote in parliament before that day. Only one 
Ontario member voted against the motion for Kiel's 
expulsion, which was carried by 123 to 68; Holton's 
amendment was lost by 76 to 117, and Mousseau's, which 
was supported only by Quebec Conservatives, by 27 
to 164. 

Mr. Laurier had made his first speech in the House 
of Commons on the day of Kiel's hurried visit, second- 

196 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

* 

ing, in French, the address in reply to the Speech from 
the Throne. He decided to take part in the Kiel debate, 
and to speak in English, in order to make his position 
clear to the majority of the House. "I must apologize 
to the House," he began, "for using a language with 
which I am only imperfectly acquainted ; really, I should 
claim a complete amnesty, because I know only too 
surely that in the course of the few remarks I wish to 
make, I shall frequently murder the Queen's English." 
The greater part of the speech was devoted to the 
question whether in presuming to act in a judicial ca- 
pacity, the House had observed the rules of judicial 
proof. No evidence had been formally offered that an 
indictment had been laid against the member for 
Provencher or a true bill returned against him. It 
had, indeed, been shown that a bench warrant had been 
issued, but where was the proof that he was contuma- 
cious, that the sheriff had tried to execute the warrant 
and had failed? In the leading British precedent, Sad- 
dlier's case, the necessity for complying strictly with all 
the requirements of legal procedure had been fully 
recognized. Mr. Laurier continued: 

It will be argued, perhaps, that the reasons which I advance 
are pure legal subtleties. Name them as you please, technical 
expressions, legal subtleties, it matters little; for my part, I 
say that these technical reasons, these legal subtleties, are the 
guarantees of British liberty. Thanks to these technical ex- 
pressions, these legal subtleties, no person on British soil can 
be arbitrarily deprived of what belongs to him. There was a 
time when the procedure was much simpler than it is to-day, 
when the will alone of one man was sufficient to deprive another 

197 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

of his liberty, his property, his honour and all that makes life 
dear. But since the days of the Great Charter, never has it 
been possible on British soil to rob a man of his liberty, his 
property or his honour except under the safeguard of what has 
been termed in this debate technical expressions and legal sub- 
tleties. . . . 

But there is more than all this. The member for Provencher 
has always asserted that the old administration had promised 
him an amnesty for all the acts in which he had taken part in 
Manitoba prior to the admission of that province into the Con- 
federation. He has reiterated that assertion twenty times, 
perhaps. Called upon over and over again to declare what 
there was in this alleged promise of amnesty, to state simply 
^es or no, it has never been willing to say yes or no. I regard 
this obstinate silence of the old administration as an absolute 
confirmation of the pretensions of Mr. Kiel and his friends ; it 
is a case of silence giving consent. 

Well, if this be the case, if the member for Provencher was 
promised an amnesty for all the acts which he may have com- 
mitted in Manitoba while at the head of the provincial govern- 
ment, is it surprising that he should not want to submit to those 
who now wish to drag him before the courts for those same 
acts? Is he not warranted in so acting? Is he not right in so 
doing in order that the promise of amnesty made to him in the 
Queen's name may be carried out ? 

No, sir, as long as this question of the amnesty has not been 
cleared up, I for one shall never declare that this man is a fugi- 
tive from his country's justice. Moreover, this question will 
be soon elucidated, as no later than last week we named a com- 
mittee to enquire into it. This committee is sitting at this 
moment and the House, in my opinion, would do not only a 
culpable but an illogical and inconsistent act, if it came to any 
decision affecting this question from near or far until it has 
received the report of the committee. . . . 

After making it clear that he would vote against the 

198 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

amendment for an immediate amnesty on the same 
ground, he continued: 

I am in favour of the amnesty for two reasons. The first is 
that given last night by the honourable member for South On- 
tario [Mr. Cameron], that the Canadian government received 
the delegates of Mr. Kiel's government and treated with him as 
one power treats with another power. ... I am in favour of 
the amnesty for still another reason because all the acts with 
which Mr. Kiel is charged are purely political acts. It was 
said here yesterday that the execution of Scott was a crime; 
granted, but it was a political act. Mr. Riel in signing the 
warrant for Scott's execution did nothing but give effect to the 
sentence of a court. However illegal may have been that court, 
however iniquitous may have been the sentence rendered by that 
court, the fact alone that it was rendered by a court and that 
that court existed de facto was sufficient to impart an exclu- 
sively political character to the execution. 

It has been said that Mr. Riel was only a rebel. How is it 
possible to use such language? What act of rebellion did he 
commit? Did he ever raise any other standard than the na- 
tional flag? Did he ever proclaim any other authority than 
the sovereign authority of the Queen? No, never. His whole 
crime and the crime of his friends was that they wanted to be 
treated like British subjects and not to be bartered away like 
common cattle. If that be an act of rebellion, where is the one 
amongst us who if he had happened to have been with them 
would not have been rebels as they were? Taken all in all, 
I would regard the events at Red River in 1869-70 as consti- 
tuting a glorious page in our history, if unfortunately they 
had not been stained with the blood of Thomas Scott. But 
such is the state of human nature and of all that is human: 
good and evil are constantly intermingled; the most glorious 
cause is not free from impurity and the vilest may have its 
noble side. 

The speech could not turn the House from its pur- 

199 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

pose, nor satisfy the extremists in either province, but its 
forceful logic and its pointed phrase established Mr. 
Laurier's reputation in the new field as firmly as earlier 
at Quebec. A different angle is presented in a very 
frank letter written in September, 1874, to his friend 
Young: 

We in the province of Quebec feel rather anxious about this 
amnesty question. It is not that we have any sympathy for 
those whom this amnesty is intended to cover. They are not 
now, nor ever shall be, whatever we may do for them, our 
friends or allies. But when we were fighting the old enemy, and 
making a weapon of everything at our hand, we took this Kiel 
question and kindled the enthusiasm of the people for him and 
his friends, in order to damage the old Administration, who 
were doing nothing for his relief. On the other hand, at the 
same time you were working the other way in your province, 
pitching into the government for not bringing to justice these 
same men. So the duplicity of the government and its double 
game were a two-edged weapon in our and your hands. 

We can now admit that both in Ontario and Quebec we have 
been imprudent in intensifying the feelings of the people as we 
have done. But without recriminating on the past, we have to 
look squarely at the situation. 

There is but one solution. Either we must yield to you, or 
you must yield to us. Either we must bring the accused to 
trial or must grant an amnesty. 

You might say that we should yield, because you are the 
strongest. I do not believe so; you must adopt our policy, 
because it is the more liberal policy, and because it must some 
day be finally adopted ; its adoption is only a question of time. 
Since, therefore, we must come to it some day, better to make 
up our mind at once and act accordingly. 

What I would suggest would be the following: that the On- 
tario legislature be called early this fall, that the local elections 
should be brought early next winter, say in January, and that 

200 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

the federal parliament be called only when they are over. If 
this plan were adopted, the ministry would not be fettered by 
the coming local elections during the session. It would be left 
to act according to the best interests of the country and the 
party, and if it had to countenance any unpopular measure, 
we would have four years before us to work away the bad 
feeling. Perhaps you do not think much of this amnesty ques- 
tion in Ontario, but to us here it is of the greatest importance. 

It may hve been only a coincidence; but it is worth 

> 

noting that the Ontario legislature was called that fall, 
in November, that the Ontario elections were brought 
on in January, and that the federal house was called in 
February. 

The question continued to trouble parliament for 
three years longer. Early in 1875 the governor-gen- 
eral, Lord Dufferin, acting on his own responsibility, 
commuted Lepine's death-sentence to two years' im- 
prisonment. The government, while doubtless not un- 
willing to be freed from the thorny task of itself advis- 
ing action, could not on constitutional grounds recog- 
nize the claim of the governor-general to independent 
authority, and in 1878 Blake succeeded in establishing 
his contention that the prerogative of pardoning, like 
other prerogatives of the Crown, was to be exercised by 
the governor-general on the advice of his responsible 
ministers. In February, 1875, Mackenzie, on the 
ground that the government was committed by the 
actions of its predecessor and of the provincial authori- 
ties, moved a full amnesty to all persons concerned in 
the North- West troubles, saving only Riel, Lepine and 
O'Donoghue; Riel and Lepine were to be amnestied 

201 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

after five years' banishment, but O'Donoghue, who had 
participated in the Fenian Raid of 1871, was excluded. 
At the same time, on Mackenzie's motion, Riel, who had 
been re-elected for Provencher, was adjudged an out- 
law for felony, on the basis of a sentence passed by the 
Chief Justice of Manitoba, and his seat vacated. This 
solution was approved by all parties except the Quebec 
Conservatives, who demanded immediate and complete 
amnesty. 

In supporting the government's course, Mr. Laurier 
insisted that the question could not be settled unless 
settled in a spirit of leniency: "History has proved to us 
that there has never been peace or harmony in any 
country until a free pardon has been given for all 
offences of this kind." It was not a question to be de- 
cided according to race or religion ; all had their prefer- 
ences, but must not be carried away by them. Members 
of parliament were representatives of the Canadian 
people, to give justice to whom it was due, without bias 
or favour. He believed that a full amnesty should have 
been granted, but as the imperial government had ad- 
vised otherwise, there was nothing to be said. This 
solution had the further advantage of being a com- 
promise between Ontario and Quebec ; it should have the 
effect of burying the past in oblivion and promoting a 
sentiment of mutual self-respect between the two great 
provinces of the Dominion. And so, for the time, Riel 
passed off the political scene. 

Long before the controversies over the incidents in 

202 



L THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

Canada's assumption of sovereignty in the West had 
ended, the question of developing this vast heritage had 
become pressing. Development meant first and fore- 
most railway-building. The Macdonald government 
had agreed in 1871, as a condition of the entrance of 
British Columbia into Confederation, to begin in two 
years and complete in ten, the construction of a railway 
to the Pacific coast. There were strong national 
reasons for hastening to make the West one and make 
it Canadian, but none the less it was a rash undertaking. 
Canada then held fewer than four million people, of 
whom only one hundred thousand, chiefly Indians, lived 
west of the Great Lakes. Between old Ontario and 
the prairies there stretched for nearly a thousand miles 
a rocky and forest-clad Northern wilderness. On the 
Pacific coast, a "sea of mountains" threatened to make 
the work of surveying slow and the work of construction 
costly. It was not surprising that difficulty was ex- 
perienced in carrying the agreement through parlia- 
ment, and still greater difficulty in carrying it into effect. 
When the Macdonald government left office in 1873, 
construction had not been begun, and the collapse of the 
company headed by Allan, to which a charter and a 
large subsidy had been granted, as a result both of po- 
litical exposures and money-market indifference, com- 
pelled a fresh start by the new administration. 

Mackenzie was a man of cautious temperament. 
Times were hard, and after the collapse of the Northern 
Pacific and other American roads in 1873, money was 

203 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

not easy to borrow for a wilderness project. Most 
people in the East believed the original agreement with 
British Columbia a rash and unnecessary concession. 
The question of the best route to follow required long 
investigation and much debate. He therefore an- 
nounced a policy of thorough survey and gradual con- 
struction, connecting the Red River settlement with 
United States lines, beginning building in British Co- 
lumbia, and utilizing the water stretches the Great 
Lakes, the river system from Lake Superior to the Red 
River, and the Saskatchewan system beyond. Then, 
as settlement progressed and funds permitted, the gaps 
could be filled in. Preferably the work should be done 
by a private company, liberally bonused ; this failing, by 
the government itself. 

Mackenzie's policy had much to commend it, given the 
formidable character of the task, the slender financial 
resources of the country, and the hard times that afflicted 
all the world in the seventies. But it did not make a 
strong appeal to popular imagination, nor give sufficient 
weight to the national considerations which called for 
welding East and West together as speedily as could be 
done if the hardly won unity of the map was ever to be- 
come a reality. "The opening by us first of a North 
Pacific Railroad," a naively frank United States Senate 
Committee had declared in 1869, "seals the destiny of 
the British possessions west of the 91st meridian; they 
will become so Americanized in interests and feelings 
that they will be in effect severed from the new Do- 
minion, and the question of their annexation will be but 

204 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

a question of time." The settlers or speculators in the 
West protested against compromise or delay with a 
vehemence inversely in proportion to their numbers. 
An adverse party majority in the Senate blocked one 
promising solution. When, therefore, the Mackenzie 
government left office in 1878, though elaborate surveys 
had been effected and construction begun in east, west, 
and centre, and the Red River practically linked with 
the roads to the south, there was a general feeling that 
the administration had not scored success in its handling 
of the railway question. 

The fiscal issue was still more thorny. The Mac- 
kenzie government was unfortunate in taking office just 
when the whole continent was entering upon a period 
of prolonged and disastrous depression, and in leaving 
office just on the eve of the return of prosperity. In the 
United States, reaction from the outburst of speculation 
and railway-building which had followed the close of the 
Civil War and the rapid opening of the West, and in 
Europe, reaction from the hectic prosperity of the 
Franco-Prussian War period, had brought sharp finan- 
cial crisis and enervating industrial depression. Canada 
could not escape. Exports and imports declined. 
Bankruptcies and soup-kitchens multiplied. The fed- 
eral revenue, derived mainly from duties on imports, de- 
clined. A demand that soon became irresistible arose 
for a higher tariff, to fill the treasury chests and 
protect home industry from being made a "slaughter- 
market." 

Hitherto the tariff had not been a party issue. The 

205 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

example of the United States had stirred up many eager 
advocates of protection, but they were found in both 
parties. The Liberals, in so far as they had been influ- 
enced by the traditions of English Liberalism, were the 
more inclined to free trade, but politicians of both parties 
had preferred to find safety in the compromise of "tariff 
for revenue with incidental protection." Now a more 
clear-cut position was demanded. The industrial de- 
pression converted many to desperate remedies. The 
financial stringency, in spite of all that Mackenzie and 
his Finance Minister, Richard Cartwright, could do in 
the way of economies, demanded new sources of revenue. 
The failure of the United States Senate to pass a 
wide and statesmanlike treaty of reciprocity which 
George Brown had negotiated on behalf of the Mac- 
kenzie government in 1874, quickened the demand for 
retaliation, for "reciprocity of trade or reciprocity of 
tariffs." The national sentiment stirred by Confedera- 
tion, which at first had urged many toward political 
independence, now was diverted into industrial channels 
and gave protection the guise of a "national policy" as 
well as an individual benefit. It was significant that the 
"Canada First" group in Toronto, and the Parti Na- 
tional into which the Liberals of Quebec had been for a 
short time transformed, leaned strongly toward protec- 
tion. 

The issue came to a head in 1876. In the preceding 
year the government had increased the main fifteen per 
cent schedules of the tariff by two and a half per cent. 
Now the question was whether it should accede to the 

206 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

protectionists' demands and raise the rates another two 
and a half per cent. It seemed probable that the in- 
crease would be made. Cartwright favoured it ; Liberal 
members from industrial centres insisted upon it; the 
"Globe" forecast it as certain. Then at the last moment, 
under pressure from a deputation of Maritime-province 
members who protested against any further increase in 
the cost of goods they consumed but did not produce, 
Mackenzie, not unwilling to be urged in the direction 
whither his own convictions led, decided against any 
change. The astounded Conservative leaders, who had 
been prepared to take the opposite tack, floundered for 
a few hours, and then swung round to a demand for pro- 
tection, or rather a "readjustment" of the tariff. 

Mr. Laurier's position was not an easy one. His 
Quebec opponents cast up to him the protectionist 
tendencies of the Parti National in 1871. Mr. Masson 
quoted abundantly from his speech on the address in, the 
Quebec legislature "the most significant, the best and 
the most eloquent speech of all." Mr. Laurier frankly 
admitted the charge. "I do not deny that I have been a 
protectionist, which I am still, but I am a moderate pro- 
tectionist and the honourable member [M. Masson] is 
an extreme protectionist." It was not a party issue. 
True, in England the Liberal party had stood for 
freedom of trade, but the Conservatives had accepted 
the same policy. "We find the Liberal party of France 
divided. While Thiers is an intense protectionist, Gam- 
betta and Say are both free traders. The Conserva- 
tives of France, and the great body of Conservatives of 

207 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

Lower Canada, do not trouble themselves about any- 
thing except saving their own souls and cursing the 
souls of other people. In the United States the Liberal 
party is intensely protectionist and the Conservative or 
Democratic party free trade. ... In our own country 
the Liberal party is far from being a unit on this subject. 
We have consistent and lifelong Liberals on both sides. 
As to the Conservatives, I am not aware that until very 
recently the party had a policy on the question; at least 
their leaders never avowed any. It is true from what 
we have seen in the House that the great mass of the 
party seems to be protectionist, but it is equally true 
they have only within two or three days come to adopt 
that policy openly, probably in justification of the well- 
known saying that a political party, like a fish, is moved 
by its tail." 

While free trade was probably the ultimate goal of 
most countries, still "protection," Mr. Laurier con- 
tinued, "is a matter of necessity for a young nation, in 
order that it may attain the full development of its own 
resources. ... If I were in Britain I would avow free 
trade, but I am a Canadian born and resident, and I 
think that we require protection. But to what extent 
do we need it? ... I consider that the present tariff 
affords sufficient protection. . . . The depression is not 
particular to this country, but is universal and affects 
highly protected as well as free-trade countries. Then 
will it be pretended that an increase in the tariff will 
restore prosperity?" 

The government was sustained by a large majority 

208 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

f 

in the House, but its position in the country steadily 
grew weaker. Instead of the improvement in trade on 
which the government had counted, they had to face a 
succession of bad harvests in 1876, 1877 and 1878. It 
was true that Canada could do little to restore pros- 
perity so long as the United States and Europe were 
depressed, but when Cartwright frankly admitted that 
ministers were but "flies upon the wheel," the cry for 
more vigorous action and for men more optimistic in 
their promises grew stronger in every province. 

The legislative programme of the Mackenzie govern- 
ment was far from negligible. It introduced voting by 
ballot, ended the pernicious system by which elections 
were spread over weeks or months, passed a strong Cor- 
rupt Practices Act, and transferred the settlement of 
controverted elections from parliament to the courts. 
It established the Canadian Supreme Court, the Royal 
Military College and the North- West Mounted Police. 
It passed the Scott Act, providing for local county 
option in prohibiting the sale of intoxicants. Its ad- 
ministrative record was strong and clean. Yet fortune 
was against it. Honest administration could not satisfy 
a country calling for a stronger stimulant. The very 
virtues of the administration told against it. Mackenzie 
had taken upon himself the heavy duties of Minister of 
Public Works, a department which then included rail- 
ways. He "kept the thieves away from the Treasury 
with a shot-gun," but he broke down his own health and 
neglected his duties as party leader. 

Wilfrid Laurier joined the administration when it was 

209 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

already drifting to defeat. His eloquence and his 
character had marked him out for the leadership of the 
Liberals of his province, and his famous speech at Que- 
bec, in June, 1877, on Political Liberalism, in which he 
defined in words as moderate as they were fearless the 
attitude of the party to the Church, had confirmed his 
outstanding position. On October 8, 1877, the day that 
Joseph Cauchon left the cabinet to become Lieutenant- 
governor of Manitoba, Wilfrid Laurier entered it as 
Minister of Inland Revenue. He had adhered to his 
statement to Mackenzie that he would not join the 
cabinet so long as Cauchon remained a member. * 

The announcement of Mr. Laurier's accession to the 
cabinet was greeted with enthusiasm by his own party, 
and, with few exceptions, with unusually considerate 
expressions of personal respect from his opponents. 
His acceptance of office made it necessary to present 
himself for re-election. His majority in Drummond- 
Arthabaska at the general election had been substantial, 
his personal popularity had continued to increase, and 
the honour of being represented by a member of the 
cabinet might be expected to appeal to the electors. 
Yet it was realized it would be an uphill fight. The tide 
was running against the government, and the Opposi- 
tion were determined at all costs to administer a final 
blow by the defeat of the newest minister. 

Both parties were well organized for the fray. Mr. 
Laurier was seconded by a brilliant band of speakers, 

i "We took him pretty soiled ; we send him back a little cleaner." 
Laurier in speech at L'Avenir, "LA MINERVE," Oct. 11, 1877. 

210 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

Francois Langelier, Louis Frechette, Honore Mercier, 
Hector Fabre, Charles Devlin and Ernest Pacaud, while 
his opponent, M. Bourbeau, himself of little distinction, 
had the support of the leading Conservative speakers of 
the province, J. A. Chapleau, L. F. R. Masson, J. J. 
Curran, and Thomas White, with Israel Tarte directing 
the campaign. But it was not in the public oratory of 
the Whites and the Chapleaus that Mr. Laurier's oppo- 
nents put their main trust. Drummond-Arthabaska 
was the county which witnessed, a generation later, the 
famous whispering campaign on the naval issue. In 
1877, the same tactics were freely used in the back con- 
cessions. The religious attitude of the Liberals was 
strongly attacked : the Rouges were declared to be under 
the censure of the Pope, friends of the apostate Chini- 
quy, allies of the excommunicated Guibord, rebels 
against the authority of the bishops. It was announced 
that Mr. Laurier had become "a minister" a Protestant 
clergyman. Another ingenious canvasser declared that 
none of his children had been baptized, which was strictly 
true, as no children had ever blessed his home. An 
extraordinary individual named Thibault, a Montreal 
attorney, with "a baggage of blather, bluff and billings- 
gate," seems from the epithets hurled at him by the Lib- 
eral organ in the county to have been particularly effec- 
tive. Possessed of a very flexible grandmother, who 
was born in whatever parish he was visiting a few 
weeks later, in a campaign among the Acadians of Nova 
Scotia, declared to be a daughter of Evangeline the 
familiar friend of bishops, whose carriages stood every 

211 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

day at his door; the instructor of priests, who through- 
out the world were trained on his treatises; flourishing 
a telegram of approval which he announced he had just 
received from the Pope; builder of hospitals, convents, 
colleges; an orator famed throughout Canada, the 
United States, the Indies and Senegambia, the mild and 
modest Thibault proved a thorn in the flesh to the Lib- 
erals. Not even Thibault marked the lowest depths. 
The Liberals charged that money was flowing like water, 
and though the charges were denied and countered, they 
were later fully sustained. 

One incident in the campaign it always gave Mr. 
Laurier much pleasure to recall. A good supporter of 
his listened attentively one Sunday to a sermon in which 
his cure denounced Liberal Catholics. On the Monday 
he sought out the cure and asked whether it would be 
possible for a good Catholic to vote for a Liberal. "No : 
impossible," was the reply. Next Sunday, the cure, 
more discreet, exhorted his flock to vote according to 
their conscience. "But," the query followed, "my con- 
science tells me to vote for Mr. Laurier ; and yet you say 
if I vote for a Liberal it will be a sin. I think I must 
not vote at all." The third Sunday brought a sermon 
denouncing political indifference, and insisting that it 
was the duty of good citizens to vote and not leave the 
suffrage to the uninformed and evil-minded. "My 
cure," responded the puzzled voter next morning, "I 
cannot vote for Mr. Laurier, for you tell me that if I 
vote for a Liberal I shall be damned ; I cannot vote for 
Mr. Bourbeau, for you tell me that if I do not follow my 

212 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

conscience I shall be damned ; I cannot vote for neither, 
for you tell me that if I do not vote at all I shall be 
damned. Since I must be damned anyway, I '11 be 
damned for doing what I like. I am going to vote for 
Mr. Laurier." 

The election was held on October 27. The result is 
thus stated in the next issue of the "Journal d'Artha- 
baska" : "Mr. Laurier is beaten by 29 votes. We have 
gone through the figures twenty times, before we could 
credit them. The thing was perfectly impossible; we 
would not believe it. Yet such is the fact, and it is with 
a feeling of profound humiliation that we announce it." 
The defeat was a serious blow to the government and 
to the new minister, repudiated in his home riding on the 
threshold of his career. True, next year, when the case 
came to trial, Mr. Bourbeau admitted that his agents 
had committed bribery, and the election was annulled; 
true, in the general election that followed, the Conserva- 
tives of Drummond-Arthabaska offered Mr. Laurier an 
acclamation; but that did not repair the damage done. 
It might have been expected that the young minister 
would be crushed by the blow. To be accorded the rare 
honour of entry into the federal cabinet in his thirty- 
sixth year, with scarce six years of parliamentary ex- 
perience behind him, and then to have the cup dashed 
from his lips, to be flouted by his own constituents, to be 
rejected in favour of an obscure and harmless local rival, 
was a catastrophe which might well have brought dis- 
turbance, if not despair, to his mind. Yet he faced the 
outlook with a smile, without a word of recrimination or 

218 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

regret. In that hour of defeat he revealed the power 
that was to be the outstanding mark of his future career. 
It was a power which had its root in mind and heart, in 
a philosophic fatalism and in a courage that never feared 
odds. He had early schooled himself not to expect too 
much from life, not to be carried away by success or cast 
down by defeat, to watch the players and the scenes on 
life's stage with an objective calm and a recognition of 
the touch of inevitableness in all they said and did. A 
personal courage which never failed reinforced his phil- 
osophy, and the self-control which made his face an im- 
perturbable mask concealed from the world any chagrin 
or regret. His distant cousin and later fellow-member 
of parliament, the poet Louis Frechette, thus in later 
years recorded the day: 

A reverse does not disturb him any more than success ex- 
alts him. He receives it with the same smile. His defeat in 
1877 was a terrible body blow, an unexpected, it might be a 
fatal reverse. I was with him that evening, along with other 
friends. We felt overwhelmed. Yet his good humour never 
varied by a hair's-breadth from his habitual calm, and his 
hand did not shake with the slightest quiver as he raised his 
glass to the toast of better days. I ask myself if, as with the 
debits and credits of a ledger, good fortune and ill fortune are 
not entered in due order as a necessary part of the whole ac- 
count, in the calculations of that soul so profoundly philo- 
sophical in temper. 1 

It was impossible to accept the verdict as final. Mr. 
Laurier had an interview with Mr. Mackenzie in Mon- 
treal. Several Liberal members at once offered to 

i"Les Hommes du Jour; Wilfrid Laurier," p. 

214 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

resign in Mr. Laurier's favour. It was determined to 
accept the offer of Hon. Isidore Thibaudeau, member 
for Quebec East. The nominations were held on No- 
vember 7, Mr. Laurier's opponent being a former mem- 
ber, Adolphe Tourangeau. Both sides threw them- 
selves into a contest which has become legendary in the 
annals of Quebec politics for its fierce rivalry and wild 
humour. Mr. Laurier fought with a vigour that 
aroused his party's enthusiasm. The ineffable Thibault 
took a part in the campaign which was excessive even 
for his vanity. There are still current in Quebec verses 
of the songs that were sung to drown poor Thibault's 
harangue. 'The glory of a blagueur of this sort," de- 
clared the "Journal d'Arthabaska," "is always ephem- 
eral; the public may be deceived once, but rarely twice. 
The success of the Conservatives in Arthabaska had 
gone to the heads of Thibault and his friends. Con- 
fident from this success, the clowns have tried to ex- 
hibit their bear in the heart of Quebec, but the people 
have mocked both the bear and the bear-leaders : 

Thibault est a Peau, 

Dondain, 
Thibault est noye 

Donde. 

Instead of chasing him and beating him as the Conserva- 
tives would have done, they contented themselves with 
greeting him with songs." When the polls closed on 
November 28, the new minister was found to be elected 
by a majority of 315. "I have unfurled the Liberal 
standard above the ancient citadel of Quebec," the vic- 

215 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

tor announced, "and there I will keep it waving." For 
over forty years it waved in old Quebec, and the names 
of Laurier and Quebec East were not divided. 

The outburst of joy in ministerial circles was evidence 
of their tension and their fears. From Quebec to Ot- 
tawa the journey was marked by torch-light processions, 
bonfires, massed bands, and speeches of glowing 
triumph. In Quebec East itself, in Arthabaska, in 
Montreal, thousands assembled to greet him. But when 
Ottawa was reached, Ottawa, not yet blase and cynical 
from over-much knowledge of politics behind the scenes, 
turned out in cheering multitudes with brass bands, 
hundreds of carriages and six hundred torch-bearers in 
procession. 

One victory could not save a party. The government 
decided to go to the country in September, 1878. Some 
members of the cabinet, including Cartwright, thought 
it would have been better to appeal in June, before the 
tide reached its height ; other Ontario Liberals, like John 
Charlton, urged postponement to give time for a cam- 
paign of education and for something to turn up. Mac- 
kenzie was confident. The government had given an 
honest and efficient administration; the ills from which 
the country suffered were beyond the power of any gov- 
ernment to cure; surely Ontario at least would not 
return to the arch-corruptionists it had spewed forth 
four short years before. Laurier was quite of the con- 
trary view. Yet, believing the government doomed, he 
fought none the less vigorously, speaking for the first 
time in Ontario as well as in Quebec constituencies. 

216 



THE MACKENZIE ADMINISTRATION 

The outcome exceeded the worst fear of the govern- 
ment and the highest hopes of the Opposition. The 
Conservatives swept every province except New Bruns- 
wick. 1 From a minority of sixty they had leaped to 
a majority of sixty-eight. Lavish promises proved 
more seductive than honest deeds. The Liberals en- 
tered on a twenty-year pilgrimage in the deserts of op- 
position. * 



i GENERAL ELECTION RESULTS 

1872 1874 1878 

Lib- Con- Lib- Con- Lib- Con- 

erals servatives erals servatives erals servatives 

Ontario 50 38 64 24 29 59 

Quebec 27 38 33 32 20 45 

Nova Scotia 10 11 17 4 7 14 

New Brunswick 9 7 11 5 11 5 

Prince Edward Island .. 6 1 5 

Manitoba 1 3 2 2 1 3 

British Columbia 6 6 6 

97 103 133 73 69 137 



217 



CHAPTER V 

UNDER A NEW LEADER 

The Retirement of Mackenzie Blake Becomes Leader Laurier 
on his Fellow-Leaders The Working of Federalism The Letellier 
Affair Macdonald and Mowat Quebec Provincial Politics 
Laurier and The Den of Forty Thieves Canadian Pacific Contract 
Hiving the Grits The General Election of 1882. 



T 



HE overthrow of the Mackenzie government 
gave new urgency to the question of the leader- 
ship of the Liberal party. Mackenzie had com- 
mitted the crime of being defeated. Many were ready 
to lay the blame for the party's failure upon his un- 
bending rigidity, his lack of conciliatory manners, his 
over-caution. As r a matter of fact, Mackenzie had been 
prepared, in 1876, to compromise on the tariff issue 
to the extent of a slight increase in the general rates, 
for additional revenue, with any protective effects that 
might be incidental, but had been prevented by the op- 
position of the Maritime Liberals. He had been 
anxious, when he saw the tide going against him, to 
bring on the elections in June instead of September; 
Cartwright, Mills, Burpee, Jones, as well as Laurier 
and Huntington, urged the same course, but some 
Quebec and Maritime members were not ready 
and against his better judgment Mackenzie had yielded. 
Yet when all allowance was made, it was clear that he 
had not kept in touch with the country, too absorbed in 

218 



UNDER A NEW LEADER 

the administrative work of the heaviest department to 
have adequate leisure for party leadership or general 
guidance of policy. Laurier had come back after his 
speaking tour in Ontario convinced that the govern- 
ment was going to be defeated, but Mackenzie scouted 
his forecast and insisted to the last that they would have 
a sweeping majority. 

Blake had taken no part in the election. He had been 
absent in Europe while Mackenzie was straining every 
nerve to combat the influences of commercial depression 
and the lavish promises of protectionist soothsayers. 
He had stood for Bruce, but had been defeated. For 
one session he was absent from Ottawa. Then the 
resignation of the member of the West Durham opened 
a way, and in October, 1 879, he was once more returned 
to parliament. 

During the week after the election Mackenzie had 
announced to several friends his intention to resign and 
to let the members choose a leader who might be more 
successful. But as the year went on and his fighting 
spirit revived, he had thought better of it, and no res- 
ignation was offered. When the second session came, 
with Blake once again in his seat, there was still no hint 
of withdrawal. Through the whole session Mackenzie 
did not once summon a caucus of the party, an omission 
unprecedented for many years. The death of Holton 
and Brown during the session robbed him of two of 
his closest personal and political friends, Holton 
dying in March, and Brown, shot by a drunken dis- 
charged printer in the same month, lingering on in pain 

219 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

until May. Still the lonely and austere leader gave 
no sign. 

Discontent mounted, until finally the chairman of the 
caucus, "Joe" Rymal, called a meeting on his own initia- 
tive. A resolution was passed, asking Mackenzie to 
consider the question of the leadership. Five of his late 
colleagues, Cartwright, Burpee, Smith, Pelletier, and 
Laurier, were asked to put the matter before him. 
Laurier was ill, and not present at the caucus. Smith, 
Burpee, and Cartwright called at his rooms at the 
Russell House and asked him to go with them to Mac- 
kenzie's office. He could not go that day. Next morn- 
ing the five went to Mackenzie's room in the Commons. 
Pelletier did not enter. The others greeted Mackenzie, 
then stood ill at ease. Burpee mentioned that the party 
had held a caucus. 'Yes, I heard about that," was 
Mackenzie's gruff response. A pause followed; then 
Pelletier entered. Mackenzie turned to him : "Pelletier, 
is not this simply a conspiracy of Mills and Rymal to 
put Blake in?" "No, Mr. Mackenzie," Pelletier stam- 
mered, "we thought that in your state of health ! 
'There is nothing the matter with my health. It is all 
a conspiracy of a few men." Then another pause, 
more lengthy and more painful. At last, seeing the 
older men mute, Laurier spoke out: "As a sincere friend 
of yours, Mr. Mackenzie, I must tell you that it is not 
so: there is a general movement. We have been de- 
feated; you have been defeated; it is only human nature 
that a defeated army should seek another general. 
There is not a man who has not high regard for your 

220 



UNDER A NEW LEADER 

services, but there is a general feeling " 'Very well," 
Mackenzie broke in, "if that is so, I shall very soon 
cease to lead the Liberal party." 

Late that night, just as the House was about to 
adjourn at two o'clock, Mr. Mackenzie rose: "I desire 
to say a word or two with regard to my personal rela- 
tions to the House. I yesterday determined to with- 
draw from my position as leader of the Opposition, and 
from this time forth I will speak and act for no person 
but myself." That was all. For twelve years more 
Mackenzie sat on the Liberal benches, slowly worn 
down by a fatal paralytic malady, taking less and less 
part in the proceedings of the House, until in his last 
sessions he appeared a mere ghost of the fighter he once 
had been. With grim lips he saw his successors come 
and go; with mellowing comprehension he watched 
Macdonald manage men; and then, in 1892, a year after 
his great rival, he passed from the scene. * 

i It may be of interest here to note Laurier's comments, long years 
afterward, on his fellow-leaders. These judgments, and those noted in 
later chapters, were given to the writer, in casual and unpremeditated 
but never unconsidered conversation. They were coloured by no bias or 
passion; Laurier's power of objective judgment was as marked as his 
tolerance, a tolerance which had its roots as much in the cynicism born 
of a varied experience of men as in his native kindliness and sympathy: 

"Cartwright was the most finished speaker in the House in my time, 
and a very effective debater. Mackenzie knocked his opponent down; 
Cartwright ran his through with keen rapier thrust, and usually turned 
the sword in the wound. He was a master of classic eloquence, and it 
was a pleasure, at least on our side, to listen to the fluent, precise, 
faultless English of his most impromptu utterance. Blake was perhaps 
a more omnivorous reader, but Cartwright was distinctly the most lettered 
man in the House. His mordant wit set his opponents writhing, and 
did not always spare his technical friends. His duels with Tupper, who 
was a better hand at the bludgeon, were particularly interesting, though 
the exchange of personalities was more intense than I had been used to 
in Quebec. He was a good Liberal, at least a good Grit, after he 

221 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

Edward Blake became the leader of the Liberal party 
in the Dominion in May, 1880. Wilfred Laurier had 
been recognized as the leader of the Quebec wing of the 
party since his entrance into the Mackenzie cabinet in 
October, 1877. The years that followed, until the gen- 
eral election of 1887, seated the Conservatives firmly in 
power for the third time in succession, brought to Blake 
bitter disappointment, loss of hope, and loss of interest, 
and gave to Laurier the opportunity of developing from 
a provincial to a national position. 

Blake led the Liberal party for seven years and 
through two general elections. He and his followers 
were filled with hope and enthusiasm when the pilgrim- 
age began; he was wearied of politics and politicians 
when it ended. Important issues arose on which he and 
his party had taken an emphatic stand, but the country 
was not persuaded that a change of government was 

left the Tory fold, but I often felt that he would have been more at 
home in the old unreformed House of Commons in England, or in the 
diplomatic service. No man among us paid so much heed to international 
affairs, and to the international aspect of Canadian questions, and few 
had as far vision. 

"Alexander Mackenzie was straight and solid as his own masonry. 
He was more characteristically Scotch than his fellow-countryman 
Sir John, who had a suppleness more Southern. The Scotch Presbyter- 
ians who have stood for democracy for generations, and who were the 
backbone of Upper Canada Liberalism, never had a more upright and 
more downright representative than Mackenzie, if he did happen to be 
a Scotch Baptist; the Baptists themselves usually had the root of the 
matter in them. He was a thorough-going party man. Not that he 
would for an instant countenance any tricky or underhanded 'practical* 
politics; he was too unswervingly honest for that, and too deeply con- 
vinced that time and the Lord would be on the side of the righteous. 
But he was certain that the Tories had inherited most of Adam's 
original sin, and he usually had the facts at his fingers' ends to prove 
it. We never had a better debater in the House; a grand man on his 
legs, we used to call him. There was no one who could stand up under 
his sledge-hammer blows. He knew his facts, he knew his men, he had 

222 



UNDER A NEW LEADER 

needed. The Fates, his own temperament, the adroit- 
ness of his opponent, the renewal of dissensions in the 
Liberal ranks, the influence of protected manufacturers 
and the loading of the dice in electoral redistribution 
were to prove too much even for Blake's great powers 
to overcome. 

Throughout these years Laurier was a loyal and ef- 
fective lieutenant. He did not speak often: his contri- 
butions to Hansard do not make one page for twenty of 
his leader's. Yet he took his part in every first-class 
issue, shared in the protracted struggles which marked 
the fourth and fifth parliaments of Canada, and in in- 
creasing measure came before the public to defend his 
party's policy. His share in debate varied with the 
issue. On such a question as the financial relations of 
the government with the Canadian Pacific, Laurier had 
little to say ; Blake had made that issue absorbingly his 
own and in any case, while possessed of no small share 

a firm grip on principle and an inexhaustible fund of indignation, a 
mind that thought straight and could turn quick. He made an excellent 
administrator of a department. It was his misfortune that he was 
called to face other tasks for which he was not so well fitted, and that 
he was contrasted with the more brilliant and unfathomed qualities 
of Blake. He had not the imagination nor the breadth of view required 
to lead a party and a country; and he gave to the details of a department 
the time that should have gone to planning and overseeing the general 
conduct of the administration. But it would be well if we had more 
Mackenzies in public life to-day. 

"Blake was the most powerful intellectual force in Canadian political 
history. He had an extraordinary mental organization, a grasp that 
covered the whole and searched out each smallest detail. He was first and 
foremost the great advocate, a tremendous dialectician, analyzing and 
cross analyzing to the last point, major points and minor points, utterly 
exhaustive. But he was no mere man of words. He would have proved 
Canada's most constructive statesman had he held office. Why did he 
never reach the place his genius warranted and all men expected? I 
do not know whether the reason lay more in the country, in his party, 

223 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

of business shrewdness, Laurier was never interested 
and never at home in the intricacies of high finance. On 
constitutional questions, the powers and privileges of a 
lieutenant-governor or the encroachment of the federal 
authority upon local rights, and on political. questions, a 
uniform federal franchise or a gerrymandering of On- 
tario, Laurier's firm grasp of principles and direct in- 
terest in the political fray forced him to the front. But 
it was only when an issue arose in which principle was 
touched with passion, an issue that involved the pride 
and prejudice of race, that went to the heart of the prob- 
lem of the relation of English-speaking and French- 
speaking Canadians Kiel's revolt and its aftermath 
that Laurier was fully roused and took a foremost part. 
Partly because the constitution of the Dominion was 
still in the gristle, partly because of the unusually close 
connection between federal and local politics which 
marked these years, questions of the scope and 
limit of federal or provincial powers were in the fore- 
ground throughout the period. 

or with Blake himself. You must remember that he took hold after 
a crushing defeat, and held the party leadership seven years. Seven 
years was not a long time in Canadian party warfare, and most of our 
opposition Jacobs have had to serve more than seven years in bondage. 
Patience was needed, but Blake was never patient. He was not the 
man to fight uphill battles. He was proud, and expected men to come 
to him; sensitive, for he lacked humour; honourable and earnest, and 
saw charlatans and men steeped in corruption holding high place in 
public life. Public life in the eighties was not a calling where thin- 
skinned men throve. The kindliest of men to his intimates, he wore 
the sensitive man's mask of indifference to the public. Ill-health and 
a nervous temperament unfitted him for the drudgery and disappoint- 
ments of politics. He was moody and nervous when things were not 
going well. Yet without any of the lesser arts, he cast a spell over 
every man in parliament. We felt in the presence of genius, and would 
have been proud to serve to the end, had he not drawn himself aloof. 

224 




EDWARD BLAKE 
Leader of the Liberal Party, 1880-87 



UNDER A NEW LEADER 

In a federal state it was inevitable that difficulties 
should arise as to the bounds and shifts of power. 
There had been few models to guide the fathers of 
Confederation in their task. In the great republic 
which was the foremost exemplar of federalism, dif- 
ficulties had arisen so serious that only the sword could 
cut the knot. Canada had sought to avoid some of 
the weaknesses the experience of the United States 
made clear, but in so doing had sailed into uncharted 
waters. 

Macdonald, it has been observed, was opposed to the 
union of the provinces upon a federal basis, literally 
until the hour of the decision which made it feasible. 
His plan of a single parliament for all Canada would 
have made Confederation impossible, since there was 
not a ghost of a likelihood that Quebec or the provinces 
by the sea would make the sacrifice of local freedom 
this involved. Time has made it clear that if estab- 
lished, in a country soon to cover half a continent and 
with the widest diversity of ways, of needs and op- 
portunities, legislative union would have proved stifling 
and unworkable. Yet his influence and the influence 
of those who shared his dread of States' rights tenden- 
cies resulted in the adoption of many expedients de- 
vised to strengthen the hands of the central authorities. 
The central government was given wide specified 
powers and made the residuary legatee; it could ap- 
point and dismiss the lieutenant-governors who were 
the formal heads of the provincial governments, veto 
the laws of provincial legislatures, appoint the judges 

225 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

of the higher provincial courts, and with substantial 
subsidies soothe the provinces into content. 

For twenty years after Confederation, and particu- 
larly in the second decade, the scope and workability 
of this constitution were constantly put to the test. In 
large measures the solution was worked out by fine- 
spun constitutional arguments and lengthy court de- 
cisions, which might be of far-reaching import but did 
not, as Brown would say, come home to the business 
and bosoms of men. When, however, the personal 
aspect was involved, as in the long duel between Mo- 
wat and Macdonald, or when party fortunes were at 
stake, as in Letellier's Coup d'etat, or when vital eco- 
nomic issues underlay the* constitutional wrangles, 
as in Manitoba's fight against the disallowance of her 
measures chartering competitors to the Canadian 
Pacific, then lawyers' tomes provided welcome am- 
munition to hurl at opponents and constitutional for- 
mulas became party war-cries. 

There was no uncertainty as to party attitude on 
the issue. The Conservatives, as champions of author- 
ity and incidentally as the party in control of the 
central government, exalted national unity and federal 
power. The Liberals, champions of freedom, heirs of 
the groups which had opposed Confederation, and in- 
cidentally as the party in power in the foremost prov- 
ince, stood steadily for provincial rights. Laurier 
gave this policy whole-hearted support. He had much 
of the Whig respect for balanced powers. He believed 
that a wide measure of local autonomy was essential 

226 



UNDER A NEW LEADER 

in order to develop responsibility, to avert friction' and 
to ensure the confidence and good-will essential for 
enduring unity. Only by adhering faithfully to the 
principle and promise of a federal union could Con- 
federation avoid the rock on which Union had 
foundered. 

It was typical of Macdonald that his first scheme for 
undermining provincial autonomy was through personal 
control. He succeeded in having installed in Toronto 
as well as in Quebec a government closely in sympathy 
with the Ottawa administration. The practice of 
double mandates greatly facilitated this means of con- 
trol. Macdonald himself did not hold seats in both 
the federal and the local house, but he seriously con- 
templated entering the Ontario house to keep "a check 
on the powers that be in Toronto." Laurier, in his 
first session in the Quebec legislature, had summed up 
pithily the objection from the provincial point of view: 
'With the single mandate, Quebec is Quebec; with the 
double mandate, it becomes only an appendix to Ot- 
tawa." The practice of double representation was pro- 
hibited in 1872, and though close relations continued 
to exist between federal and provincial party leaders, 
the loss of this direct means of enforcing uniformity 
and the inevitability that some at least of the provincial 
governments would always be of a different political 
complexion from the federal, forced Macdonald to seek 
more permanent means of control. 

The Letellier case raised the next question, the part 
the lieutenant-governors of the provinces were to play. 

227 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

Were they to be agents of Ottawa, responsible to the 
federal cabinet for their conduct, or constitutional king- 
lets, sheltered by the assumption of all responsibility 
by provincial ministers? It was not Ottawa that first 
forced this issue, but Quebec. Luc Letellier de Saint- 
Just had given up his post as Minister of Agriculture 
in the Mackenzie cabinet in 1876 to become Lieutenant- 
Governor of Quebec. His coming added to the tensity 
of a difficult political situation. The De Boucherville 
ministry, representing the extreme Tory and ultramon- 
tane wing of the Bleus, was beset by dissension in the 
ranks of its own party and by the disintegrating influ- 
ence of railway lobbyists and speculative rings. Now 
it was called upon to face for the first time since 
Confederation a situation under which the formal head 
of the provincial administration was a man who for 
many years had been a vigorous and unrelenting foe 
of all that his ministers stood for. The personal factor 
accentuated the difficulty. Ever since entering political 
life in 1850, as a man of thirty, Letellier had been 
fighting Conservative and clerical influence in eastern 
Quebec. His electoral struggles, legendary for their 
bitterness and persistence, had intensified his stubborn 
convictions, and made it difficult for him to act King 
Log. A man of imposing figure and address, proud, 
insistent on the dignity of his position, rather indolent 
between outbursts of political campaigning or deer- 
hunting, Letellier would not be easily managed. Nor 
were his ministers the men to manage him. Charles 
Boucher de Boucherville, the premier, was a man of 

228 



UNDER A NEW LEADER 

unquestioned probity and honour, but at the opposite 
pole of political opinion, and of a dignity more at 
ease, as resting on the consciousness of many gen- 
erations of seigniorial eminence, though no less insistent. 
His attorney-general, A. R. Angers, the real power in 
the cabinet, had made his way rapidly by energy 
and ability, but his domineering temper had not made 
him popular. 

Beginning with doubtless sincere expressions of 
desire to work in harmony, Letellier and his ministers 
were soon at outs. No one outstanding issue developed. 
Petty slights and misunderstandings now Angers 
furious because of being given too low a place at a 
state dinner, now Letellier piqued because formal pro- 
clamations had been issued without his signature being 
authorized prepared the way for deadlock over the 
cabinet's plans for building the North Shore Railway 
between Quebec and Montreal. The growing extrav- 
agance of administration, the wide-spread public suspi- 
cion of intrigue and corruption on the part of some 
of the government's supporters in connection with the 
railway, and the Quebeckers' traditional hostility to 
the direct taxation to which low finances had forced 
the administration, were stirring public opinion and pro- 
viding an atmosphere in which the lieutenant-governor's 
hostility throve apace. On March 2, 1878, after some 
brief interchanges, Letellier informed the premier, in 
terms which amounted to a dismissal, that he would not 
sanction the North Shore Bill. De Boucherville at 
once resigned. Letellier sent for Joly, as leader of the 

229 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

Opposition, to form a new government, and granted 
a dissolution. The elections were bitter. The Con- 
servatives denounced Letellier's tyranny and pro- 
claimed themselves champions of responsible govern- 
ment; the Liberals attacked the railway rings and 
Angers le taxeur, and assumed responsibility for 
Letellier's noble action. When they went to the 
country, the Liberals had barely half as many members 
as their opponents : the elections raised them to equality. 
With difficulty and many shifts, Joly weathered the 
first weeks of the session on a precarious majority of 
one, which was, however, increased steadily but slowly 
in by-elections. 

Then the contest shifted to Ottawa. In the spring 
session of 1878 Macdonald moved a vote of censure on 
Letellier. The Liberals, though unaware in advance 
of Letellier's intention to dismiss his ministers, and con- 
vinced that he erred in not letting events take their 
course and giving the De Boucherville cabinet enough 
rope to hang itself, opposed and defeated the vote of 
censure, insisting that the matter was one for the people 
of Quebec to determine at the pending provincial 
election. Next session saw the Conservatives in power 
at Ottawa and Joly in power, or at least in office, at 
Quebec. Macdonald hesitated to take further action 
in face of the endorsement of Joly by the people, but 
the Quebec Bleus demanded their pound of flesh. 
Mousseau moved Macdonald's resolution of the previous 
session. Mackenzie opposed any attempt to go behind 
the Quebec electors and insisted that if action were 

230 



UNDER A NEW LEADER 

taken, it should be on the initiative of the governor- 
general's responsible advisers. 

Laurier had made a cautious defence of Letellier's 
coup in the previous session. Now he took the lead in 
opposing Mousseau's motion. He declared that in re- 
fusing to pass the same resolution a year before, the 
majority had not expressed any opinion upon Letellier's 
course, but had merely affirmed it was a matter for 
the people of the province. Now the people had 
spoken, and had upheld his action. ("No, no.") 
'What are you here for if you say no? If your course 
had been supported by the people, you would not seek 
at the hands of this House the vengeance which you 
are now seeking." Why seek to override the judgment 
of the province concerned, by the votes of members 
from other provinces in whose campaign Letellier had 
never been an issue? Letellier had committed no 
crime; he had exercised a right which he had the ab- 
stract power to exercise: "It is said that the exercise of 
it was unwise, but in the estimation of the people of 
Quebec, that unwise act saved the country." Letel- 
lier's act had since been covered by ministerial respon- 
sibility. The Dominion should not interfere. Granted 
that the House had a right to interfere in provincial 
matters in some cases, where could the line be drawn? 
The same rule should be applied to administrative as 
to legislative acts. 

The doctrine is now settled that the power of disallowing 
provincial laws is to be confined to those cases only where pro- 
vincial legislatures may have stepped beyond their jurisdiction 

231 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

into prohibited ground ; that this power is to be exercised only 
for the protection of imperial or federal rights which may 
have been invaded by provincial legislatures, but never to af- 
ford relief to any section of the community which may deem 
itself aggrieved by that legislation. Interference in such 
cases would be a violation of the federal principle, and in all 
such cases the aggrieved portion of the community must seek 
and can find its relief in the application of the principle of re- 
sponsible government. 

For the members from the province of Quebec, he 
concluded, to urge federal intervention was to put in 
jeopardy the independence of their province merely to 
snatch a party triumph. 

The Bleus had their motion of censure, passed on a 
straight party vote, by 136 to 51. Next they demanded 
Letellier's head. The governor-general, the Marquis 
of Lome, had a fellow-feeling for lieutenant-governors, 
and was extremely reluctant to sanction Letellier's dis- 
missal after Joly had assumed responsibility and been 
sustained by the people. Macdonald himself had 
little enthusiasm for the task, but the Bleus would 
brook no delay. Macdonald offered his half-hearted 
recommendation of dismissal; the marquis demurred, 
and believed that he should seek instructions from the 
British government before establishing an important 
precedent. The government was in a quandary ; should 
they yield, or should they resign? Macdonald decided 
to yield, but with ill-grace; his statement to the Com- 
mons gave the impression that the governor-general's 
action had not the assent of the cabinet. The Bleus 
were furious, hooted their leader in the House, stormed 
in caucus, threatened a vote of non-confidence, but fell 



UNDER A NEW LEADER 

into line. The British authorities advised the governor- 
general to follow the recommendations of his cabinet 
on this as on other matters. Letellier's dismissal fol- 
lowed, and De Boucherville was avenged. 

In the attempt to hold a lieutenant-governor per- 
sonally responsible to the federal government rather 
than allow him shelter behind the responsibility of the 
provincial ministry, Macdonald had acted with some 
reluctance. Into the conflicts with Ontario which 
followed he threw himself with a vigour and tenacity 
rooted in strong personal feeling. In great measure 
the conflicts as to constitutional rights were merely 
the cover for personal rivalry and party jockeying. 
In Ottawa John A. Macdonald was now supreme; in 
Toronto, Oliver Mowat. They had been friends in 
youth, Mowat studying law in Macdonald's Kingston 
office, but in the intensely personal atmosphere of Union 
politics they had become bitter enemies. We have a 
glimpse of their relations, and incidentally of the amen- 
ities of parliamentary life in the sixties, in a scene in 
the House in April, 1861, Macdonald accusing Mowat 
of inconsistency, Mowat declaring the attack false and 
unwarranted, and Macdonald crossing the floor of the 
House, shaking his fist in Mowat's face, and shouting, 
'You damned pup, I '11 slap your chops for you." 
When Mowat retired to the bench, hostilities slumbered, 
but when he stepped down to take control of the provin- 
cial administration in 1872, and particularly when in 
face of Conservative victory on federal issues, he 
strengthened his grip on Ontario, the rivalry became 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

acute. It was a well-matched struggle. Macdonald 
had nearly forty years of parliamentary experience 
behind him, a mastery of every trick of the trade, a 
shrewd knowledge of men, and a hold on the public 
imagination that no other man could hope to equal. 
Mowat was fully as shrewd, a sounder lawyer, and 
with a firmer grip on himself; his deep and genuine 
piety even on a trip to Paris and Italy he is found 
hunting out three Presbyterian or at least evangelical 
services a Sunday in byways and over grocery shops 
won him support in many quarters, and the rooted con- 
fidence that his piety would not hamper his political 
tactics in an emergency prevented it proving a handi- 
cap in other quarters. A Liberal by conviction and 
a Tory by temperament, he was well equipped to give 
his province honest and cautiously progressive govern- 
ment. 

Macdonald's first line of attack was to seek to limit 
the physical bounds of Mowat's domain. The western 
and northern boundaries of Ontario had never been 
definitely drawn. Before Confederation, the province 
of Canada, heir to New France, had claimed all the 
Western lands that the daring of French explorers 
and fur-traders had staked out: it was to be one of the 
ironies of history that in the very lands that came to 
Ontario on the strength of these French-Canadian ex- 
ploits, later generations of politicians were to seek to 
limit the French tongue by making assent to restrictive 
school regulations a condition of the grant of northern 
Ontario homesteads. After Confederation, the Domin- 

234 



UNDER A NEW LEADER 

ion, as successor to the Hudson's Bay Company, 
claimed for itself every acre southward and eastward 
that the company had ever asserted lordship over. 
The issue hung on the interpretation of a medley of 
treaties, statutes, executive acts. In Mackenzie's 
time the Dominion and Ontario agreed to submit the 
issue to arbitration; but when the arbitrators decided 
in favour of the province, Macdonald, again in office, 
refused to accept the award. He adroitly involved 
Manitoba in the dispute by having an act passed grant- 
ing it the greater part of the territory in dispute, and 
encouraged demands from Quebec that the balance of 
provincial power should not be disturbed by a huge 
addition to Ontario's domains. 

In the session of 1882 the dispute came before the 
House of Commons. There was much parade of tech- 
nical interpretation, and Laurier in rising, after listen- 
ing to many disquisitions on the difference between 
"north" and "northward," quoted the appeal of the 
Marquis of Torcy to Bolingbroke during the negotia- 
tion of the Treaty of Utrecht: "In the name of God, 
sir, order your plenipotentiaries to be less excellent 
grammarians." He urged that the acceptance of the 
award was an obligation of honour, and that it was 
a judicial finding and not a compromise. Then, turn- 
ing to the Quebec Conservatives who were opposing 
the award, he declared: 

In speaking thus I know perfectly well that I shall be vio- 
lently attacked in my own province by the members of the Con- 
servative party. ["Hear, hear!"]. I see that I have not 

235 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

mistaken the prejudices of my honourable friends opposite. I 
know their prejudices too well not to know in advance what 
their argument will be: I know that it will be an appeal to the 
baser prejudices of my fellow-countrymen. But, sir, I have 
too much respect for the sense of justice of my countrymen to 
fear the effect of those appeals. ... I have no hesitation in 
saying this award is binding on both parties and should be 
carried out in good faith. The consideration that the great 
province of Ontario may be made greater I altogether lay 
aside as unfair, unfriendly, and unjust, I do not grudge to On- 
tario the extent of territory declared hers under this award. 
The eternal principles of justice are far more important than 
thousands of millions of acres of land. Let us adhere to those 
principles of justice, and in so doing we will have the surest 
foundation for securing justice on every occasion. 

The boundary dispute and its sequels dragged 
through another parliament, but meanwhile other phases 
of the same broad issue had developed. Throughout 
the eighties a series of legal battles was fought between 
the Dominion and the Ontario governments to determine 
the limits of the legislative powers assigned each author- 
ity by the British North America Act. One case * had 
arisen under the Mackenzie regime, and Mowat had 
made good his contention that the government of the 
province and not of the Dominion represented the 
Crown in taking possession of escheated estates. More 
important in its practical bearings was the confirmation 
of the power of the province to impose conditions for 
carrying on business upon companies whether incor- 
porated by the Dominion, by a foreign or British 
government, or by the province itself. 2 But it was 



iln re Mercer. 

2 Citizens' Insurance Company vs. Parsons. 

236 



UNDER A NEW LEADER 

V 

only when the question of the control of the liquor 
traffic was touched that popular and party interest was 
aroused. In 1876 the Ontario legislature had adopted 
the Crooks Act, stiffening the conditions under which 
licenses for the retailing of liquors could be granted, 
and giving the licensing power to boards of commis- 
sioners appointed by the provincial government for 
each municipality. Liberals praised the Crooks Act 
as a progressive measure of temperance reform; Con- 
servatives damned it as an attempt to build up a polit- 
ical machine through the patronage and the power con- 
ferred upon the government. Macdonald decided to 

| intervene. In the federal campaign of 1882 he declared 
that if he carried the country, as he would do, he would 

| "tell Mr. Mowat, that little tyrant" who had "attempted 
to control public opinion by getting hold of every office 
from that of a Division Court bailiff to a tavern- 
keeper," that he would get a bill passed at Ottawa re- 
turning to the municipalities the power taken from 
them by the License Act. 

Macdonald had still another shot in his locker, the 
federal power of disallowing provincial statutes. The 
British North America Act had given the governor- 
general the same power of disallowing provincial stat- 
utes which the Queen enjoyed of disallowing federal 
statutes. Macdonald had early realized that if the 
governor-general's advisers should be "States' rights 
men, who would look more to sectional than to general 
interests," this power might be little used, and accord- 
ingly in January, 1869, he had suggested to the 

23Tj 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

governor-general, Lord Monck, the advisability of seek- 
ing instructions from the Colonial Office empowering 
him to act in case of disallowance or reservation, in- 
dependently or under British instructions. 1 The cor- 
respondence between Monck and Grenville which fol- 
lowed led to the issuing of instructions to refer such 
measures to England for advice. When Blake became 
Minister of Justice, he made short work of this arrange- 
ment, insisting and in the end securing that in this as 
other connections, the "governor-general" could only 
mean the governor-general in council, acting on the ad- 
vice of his ministers. It still remained to determine how 
the federal ministers would exercise their powers. It 
was at first assumed that the veto power would be used 
only in case a provincial act infringed federal or imperial 
interests or was plainly unconstitutional. But in 1881 
Macdonald extended its scope. The Ontario legislature 
had intervened in a lumbermen's dispute by passing an 
act giving the holders of limits up-stream the right to use 
slides constructed in a non-navigable stream by a limit- 
holder lower down, on payment of certain tolls. The 
up-stream lumberman, Caldwell, happened to be a Lib- 
eral; the down-stream man, McLaren, a Conservative. 
On the ground that the provincial measure involved tak- 
ing property without adequate compensation, the Do- 
minion government promptly disallowed it. Mowat 
had it passed again, and once more Macdonald had it 
disallowed. The Liberal Opposition at Ottawa raised a 

i Pope's "Memoirs of Sir John A. Macdonald." II. 297. 

238 



UNDER A NEW LEADER 

debate on the question, vigorously supporting Mowat's 
stand, and here for the time the matter rested. 

As has already been noted, the prominence of the 
constitutional issue was due in no small measure to the 
close connection between provincial and federal politics 
and politicians. The Dominion was not yet a distinct 
entity; it was merely a loose grouping of provinces. 
Canadians, when they did not call themselves English- 
men or Irishmen or Scotchmen or Frenchmen, were apt 
to think as Quebeckers or Nova Scotians or Ontario 
men. It was in the provincial arena that all the leading 
federal politicians had first to prove their mettle. While 
the double mandate had been abolished, the personal 
ties between the leaders at Ottawa and the leaders at 
Toronto or Quebec, surviving from pre-Confederation 
days, were still strong. This provincial trend was 
strengthened by the dominance at Ottawa of the two 
central provinces ; the Maritime provinces seemed to be 
isolated and apart, and the Western lands had not yet 
come to a power which would compel a widening of 
Ottawa horizens. 

The relations between Blake and Mowat were 
close and friendly, but Ontario political affairs were be- 
coming too stabilized to offer much room for aid or inter- 
vention. In 1875 and again in 1879 Mowat had been 
confirmed in the seat to which Blake and Brown had 
called him in 1872. The new leader of the Opposition 
William Ralph Meredith, had put himself in a difficult 
position by trying to defend the anti-provincial policy 

239 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

of his fellow-Conservatives at Ottawa. With this issue, 
with economical and progressive administration, and 
with the possibilities of patronage well employed, 
Mowat had little difficulty in holding his own, without 
more than the normal assistance from his party friends 
in the House of Commons. 

In Quebec, matters were far otherwise. The two par- 
ties were divided; the question of leadership was unset- 
tled; cabinets came and went with rapidity. In the 
fifteen years that followed 1872 Ontario had one pre- 
mier, Quebec eight. In 1879, on the defeat of the Joly 
government, J. A. Chapleau, perhaps Quebec's most 
moving orator, had formed a Bleu ministry. After 
three years of easy-going administration, Chapleau en- 
deavoured to replenish the empty treasury by the sale of 
the North Shore Railway, the western section to the 
Canadian Pacific and the eastern to a Senecal-Mc- 
Greevy syndicate. The sale was fought hard, not only 
by the Liberals but by the rigid ultramontane section 
of his own party, under De Boucherville and Beaubien. 
To bring peace, Chapleau resigned, exchanging posts 
with J. A. Mousseau, secretary of state in the federal 
government, but Mousseau was little more successful 
than Chapleau in conciliating the De Boucherville or 
"Castor" wing. Nor were the Liberals sufficiently 
united to take full advantage of these dissensions. 
While Joly continued as leader, the most aggressive 
force in the party was a young ex- Conservative lawyer, 
Honore Mercier, an astute tactician, a hard fighter, and 
a speaker of torrential powers. Mercier coquetted with 

240 





Sir Antoine Aim Dorion 



Sir Hector Langevin 









Sir J. A. Chapleau Honor6 Mercier 

FOUR QUEBEC LEADERS 



UNDER A NEW LEADER 

Chapleau and Mousseau, who were prepared to consider 
a coalition with moderate opponents to save themselves 
from their Castor friends. Joly strongly opposed coali- 
tion and the new Liberal organ in Montreal, "La 
Patrie," under the editorship of M. Beaugrand, at- 
tacked Mercier as being willing to sell the party's inter- 
ests for private gain. At the opening of the 1883 ses- 
sion, Joly resigned and Mercier was elected in his stead, 
but with the distinct understanding there should be no 
coalition. 

In these provincial controversies, Laurier leaned to 
Joly and the old Rouge traditions. He was on friendly 
but hardly on intimate terms with Mercier, and, though 
sympathetic with Chapleau, disliked the men Chapleau 
had about him. In 1882 he became involved in a lively 
controversy. He had been, along with Honore Mercier 
and C. A. Langelier, an active collaborator in a new Lib- 
eral journal, "L'Electeur," founded in Quebec city in 
July, 1880, under the editorship, first, of Fra^ois 
Langelier, and later of Ernest Pacaud. The group in 
control were young and aggressive, full of the joy of 
combat, but they were also shrewd; within seven years 
"L'Electeur" had undergone fifty libel suits and had 
never once been condemned. Now an editorial contrib- 
uted by Mr. Laurier gave rise to one of the most sensa- 
tional libel suits in the annals of Quebec. The editorial, 
entitled "The Den of the Forty Thieves," 1 made a 

iThe Den of the Forty Thieves: "L'Electeur," April 20, 1881. 

"This den of the Forty Thieves, which it was thought existed only in 
the land of legend, is really in existence here among us. It is not, as 
might be believed, in the heart of a forest, protected by inaccessible 

241 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

scathing indictment of L. A. Senecal, a contractor and 
boss, high in Bleu circles, Chapleau, Senecal, and a 
Montreal journalist, Dansereau, forming what was 
familiarly known as the Holy Trinity. When suit was 
brought Mr. Laurier avowed authorship and was 
promptly put on trial. His counsel pleaded justifica- 
tion; the jury disagreed, with ten for acquittal and two 
for conviction, but the ventilation of Bleu secrets had 
been thorough. 

In the federal arena the tariff continued an important 
issue. The government lost no time in carrying out the 
mandate given it in the elections of 1878. 'Tell us 
what you want," Macdonald told the manufacturers, 
"and we will give you what you need." For textiles, 
furniture, boots and shoes, sugar, foodstuffs, and iron 
and steel products from pig-iron to farm implements, 

rocks, guarded by armed sentinels. The robbers who seek refuge in it 
are not obscure bandits, hidden by day, prowling by night. On the 
contrary, they flaunt their shamelessness in the full light of day; they 
strut through the streets, they drink at the public bars, the smoke of 
their cigars is found on every hand. Moreover, these robbers are not 
any Tom, Dick, and Harry; robbers though they are, they have been 
entrusted with a glorious task, the task of restoring the finances of 
the province of Quebec. This den of robbers is the Administration of 
the Northern Railway, and the name of the chief of the band is Louis 
Adelard Senecal. . . . 

"The administration of the Northern Railway to-day is robbery erected 
into a system. Let no one protest; the word we use does not indicate 
any violence of language or any irritation of temper. We are merely 
calling things by their name. When the public contracts on the railway 
are awarded without competition and in return for a money consideration; 
when in every undertaking carried on a percentage is levied by the 
management; when the supplies used on the road are paid for at ex- 
orbitant prices, and the ordinary commercial profits are shared, in more 
or less equal parts between the buyer and seller; when every friend of 
the government travels free on the road; if this is not robbery erected 
into a system, what then is it? We speak with knowledge. We know 
that with the very money drawn from the Northern Railway, M. S6ncal 
has subsidized lavishly certain newspapers. . . ." 

242 



UNDER A NEW LEADER 

wants and needs were held to be not far apart. The 
budgets of 1879 and succeeding years brought marked 
tariff increase, accompanied by a general substitution of 
specific or compound for ad-valorem rates. At the same 
time the long depression which had shadowed the whole 
continent came to an end. Trade revived in the United 
States, giving a fillip to industry in its Northern neigh- 
bour. The building of the Canadian Pacific and other 
roads created a lively demand for men and goods and 
credit. Soon CanTada had passed from soup-kitchens 
and bankruptcies to rising factory chimneys and feverish 
speculation. Naturally, the general public gave credit 
for the improvement in industrial health to the widely 
advertised patent medicine which had just been taken. 
They were prepared to give the N. P. a glowing testi- 
monial* 

Even had the chances of the attack on the N. P. 
seemed fair, Blake would have been reluctant to make 
the tariff the foremost issue. He had no small sym- 
pathy with protection on its national side, and was pre- 
pared to give it a fair trial, while criticizing its chief ex- 
cresences. With this attitude Laurier agreed. He had 
shared in the desire of the Parti National to give 
infant industries a chance, and at this period he differed 
from the out-and-out protectionists more in questions of 
degree and application than in questions of principle. 
The party policy was defined most fully during the ses- 
sion of 1882. The Opposition assault was directed 
almost wholly against specific tariff schedules. Laurier 
moved the abolition of the duty designed to force the use 

243 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

of Nova Scotia coal in Ontario and the duty designed to 
force the use of Ontario wheat and flour in Nova Scotia. 
Paterson of Brant attacked the sugar monopoly. Ang- 
lin criticized the duties on cottons and woolens as dis- 
criminating against the poor. Burpee of St. John 
showed that the duties on pig- and bar- and sheet-iron 
were hampering the manufacturers to whom these wares 
were raw materials. One and all, these proposals were 
voted down, but the Opposition had prepared its fight- 
ing ground for the coming election. 

But it was neither fiscal nor constitutional questions 
which bulked largest in the work of the fourth parlia- 
ment. Could Canada be made one by building a tariff 
wall around it ? Could Canada be made one by exalting 
the powers of the central government? There was yet 
another question to solve: could Canada be made one by 
building a railway from coast to coast? 

The outstanding federal issue in the early eighties, 
the issue which Blake made most distinctively and most 
vigorously his own, was the construction and financing 
of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The weaknesses of 
the government's bargain provided the main staple of 
Liberal attack; the eventual success of the project, the 
government's overwhelming retort. This dominance of 
a transportation question in the country's politics was 
neither unprecedented nor surprising. "Consult the 
annals of Canada for the past fifty years at random, 
and whatever party may be in power, what do you 
find?' 1 asked a brilliant Canadian whose premature 
death was a calamity to his country. "The government 

244 



UNDER A NEW LEADER 

is building a railway, buying a railway, selling a railway, 
or blocking a railway." * 

Railways have counted greatly in the making of Can- 
ada and in the party struggles which have reflected the 
clashing interests at stake. In every new country the 
railway is indispensable in opening lands to settlement 
and markets to settlers, and nowhere more than in Can- 
ada, with its vast distances, and the seal set by winter on 
its waterways. But in Canada it has been not merely 
tonnage and homestead entries that have been at stake, 
but the very nation's existence. The Dominion was not 
a natural unity: for thousands of miles but a fringe of 
settlement a hundred or fewer miles deep along the 
American border, cut in four by the jutting northward 
of Maine, the thrust of the Laurentian plateau south- 
ward to the Great Lakes and the barriers of the Sel- 
kirks and the Rockies, it could never have been made 
one or kept one unless by the railway. So it was that 
when in the fifties the Grand Trunk bound the two 
Canadas, for all their incompatibility of temperament, 
together beyond possibility of divorce ; and when in the 
seventies the Intercolonial united East and Centre, and 
justified its builders by making ends meet politically 
if it could not make ends meet financially, and when 
in the eighties the Canadian Pacific bound East and 
West and gave reality to the map's pictured unity, 
the making of railways not only made and unmade 
governments in the Dominion, but had a share in the 

iPaul Lamarche: "Conference & la Bibliotheque Saint Sulpice." 
Montreal, 1917. 

245 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

making of a people, and in more than one way their 
unmaking. 

A way from the Atlantic to the Pacific and beyond 
had been the dream of many a daring explorer and 
fur-trader in Canada's beginnings. The search for the 
North-West Passage had lured brave English seamen 
to shipwreck and death on the islands of the North. 
It was in the search for "La Chine" that La Salle traced 
the Mississippi to the sea. La Verendrye pushed 
westward almost within sight of the Rockies, and Mac- 
kenzie to the shores of the Pacific, but the paths they 
blazed took months to follow, in canoe and on foot, 
with packhorse and Red River cart. The coming of 
the railway gave a new turn to men's visions, and the 
pamphleteer and the promoter built many a trans- 
continental road on paper. It was not until the pros- 
pect of bringing all British North America within the 
Canadian federation emphasized the need, and the 
achievement of the United States in building the Union 
Pacific in the sixties pointed the way, that the question 
entered practical politics. 

Within six years after Confederation the Dominion 
had staked out the lands from sea to sea for its own and 
multiplied its original area tenfold. First the central 
territories had been acquired from the Hudson's Bay 
Company, and then in 1871 the Pacific coast colony 
entered the union. Canadian statesmen were eager to 
have an outlet to the Western ocean, and apprehensive 
of a movement which found backing both inside and 
outside British Columbia to bring the whole coast from 

246 



UNDER A NEW LEADER 

Alaska to California under the Stars and Stripes. The 
ten thousand white settlers in the new province there- 
fore set their terms high, urging first and foremost the 
immediate building of a transcontinental railway. It 
was an audacious demand. The engineering difficulties 
were great; for hundreds of miles the road would have 
to run through territory where no white man had ever 
passed. Canada had not yet four million people; the 
United States had not built across the continent until 
it had over thirty million. Yet Macdonald accepted 
the terms, agreeing to begin in two years and complete 
in ten a road connecting the Pacific Ocean with the 
railway systems of Ontario and Quebec. He felt 
strongly the national issues at stake and the confidence 
that "something would turn up" which gave him his 
sobriquet of "Old To-morrow" enabled him to discount 
the difficulties ahead. 

The Pacific railway question entered federal politics 
in 1871 and never left it for a score of years. The 
Opposition attacked the undertaking to complete a 
transcontinental road in ten years as extravagant and 
impossible; the government defended 1 it with mental 
reservations. The selection of a route roused local 
rivalries which found political expression. The eager- 
ness of railway promoters to secure the fortunes which 
American experience had shown could be reaped from 



extravagant land subsidies and dummy construction 
companies led to the most audacious campaign of 
electoral and legislative corruption in Canada's annals 
up to that time: the revelation in 1872 of the extent to 

247 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

which Macdonald, Cartier, and Langevin had drawn 
upon the leader of the chief Pacific syndicate, Sir Hugh 
Allan, for campaign funds, drove the government out 
and brought Mackenzie in. In the lean years of world- 
wide depression that followed, Mackenzie's cautious 
policy of piecemeal construction as finance and settle- 
ment warranted brought British Columbia to the verge 
of secession. On his return to power in 1878, Mac- 
donald continued the policy of government construction 
with the same reluctance and the same leisureliness 
which had marked Mackenzie's regime, until in 1880 
the revival of prosperity and speculation reawakened 
private interest and the opportune appearance of a new 
syndicate made possible a change of policy. 

A group of Canadian and ex-Canadian business 
men James J. Hill, Norman Kittson, Donald A. 
Smith, George Stephen, and R. B. Angus had found 
in the lavish land grants and the discouragement of 
the Dutch bondholders of a thrice-looted Minnesota 
railway, an opportunity for a daring stroke. They had 
secured the road for a tithe of its value, and from the 
outset had reaped immense returns. Their road, the 
St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Manitoba, ran to the Mani- 
toba boundary, where it connected with a Pacific branch 
built by the Mackenzie government from Winnipeg 
south. Its owners were therefore in a strategic position 
to undertake construction in Canada. They were 
flushed with success, and possessed of wealth or pros- 
pects of wealth beyond Canadian compare. Naturally 
their thoughts turned to the possibilities of the newer 

248 



UNDER A NEW LEADER 

North-West. The Canadian government, eager to 
abandon state construction, met them half-way. 
"Catch them while their pockets are full," was the ad- 
vice given Macdonald by his shrewd Eastern Townships 
lieutenant, John Henry Pope. Negotiations were be- 
gun in Ottawa in the spring of 1880 and continued in 
London during the summer. The attempt to enlist 
British and Continental capital in the scheme met little 
success, though the inclusion of a few London, Paris, 
and Berlin names enabled Sir John on his return to 
Canada to announce that he had "made a good arrange- 
ment with a number of capitalists, not alone in England, 
but in Germany, France, the United States, and Can- 
ada ... a combination of forces which will not only 
be sufficient to build the road, but will have additional 
influence to turn the great current of German emigra- 
tion from the States to Canada" (cheers). As a mat- 
ter of fact, the burden of the construction of the road 
was to fall almost wholly on the Canadian investor and 
the Canadian taxpayer. 

In October, 1880, a formal agreement was reached 
between the government and a syndicate consisting of 
George Stephen, Duncan Mclntyre, John S. Kennedy, 
Richard B. Angus, James J. Hill, Morton Rose and 
Company, and Kohn, Reinach and Company. In 
December the contract was submitted to parliament and 
its terms given to the public. In return for the build- 
ing and operating of a road running through Canadian 
territory from Lake Nipissing to the Pacific, involv- 
ing some nineteen hundred miles of new construction, 

249 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

the syndicate was to receive a subsidy of $25,000,000 
in cash, 25,000,000 acres of selected lands in the fertile 
belt, mainly in alternate sections within twenty-four 
miles of the railway, and the seven hundred miles of 
road then under construction by the government. They 
were promised exemption from import duties on con- 
struction materials, from taxes on land for twenty years 
after the patents were issued, and on stock and other 
property forever, and from regulation of rates until 
ten per cent, was earned on the capital. They were 
guaranteed also against competition from United States 
roads in the West; for twenty years the Dominion was 
to charter "no line of railway south of the Canadian 
Pacific, except such lines as shall run southwest or to 
the westward of southwest, or to be within fifteen 
miles of latitude 49." The road was to be completed 
by 1891. 

No sooner were the terms of the contract announced 
than Blake and the Opposition launched an attack upon 
it in full force. That opportunity should have been 
given for competitive offers from other sources under 
the new conditions ; that the government was virtually 
building the road and then presenting it free to the syndi- 
cate ; that the financial expenditure involved would ruin 
the country; that there was no certainty that the syndi- 
cate could or would supply the capital required for 
immediate expenditure and ultimate operation; that the 
blanket choice of land and the exemption from taxation 
and particularly the monopoly of construction for 
twenty years would hamper and discourage settlement, 

250 



UNDER A NEW LEADER 

were the main counts in their indictment. A vigorous 
press and platform campaign was carried on during 
the Christmas recess. A rival company was organized 
by prominent capitalists of Liberal leanings, including 
Sir William Rowland, William Hendrie, A. R. Mc- 
Master, A. T. Wood, Allan Gilmour, George A. Cox, 
P. Larkin, James McLaren, John Walker, John 
Carruthers, and Alexander Gibson. It submitted an 
offer to build the road for a smaller subsidy, to waive 
the exemption and monopoly clauses, and to give the 
government the : 'privilege" of postponing the Lake 
Superior and mountain sections. When parliament 
met in January, Blake moved a six-page omnibus 
amendment and exposed every weakness of the con- 
tract to galling and overwhelming fire, while his fol- 
lowers in turn offered some twenty-four specific amend- 
ments as his share in the comprehensive campaign of his 
leader. 

In a speech made in the House in December, 1880, 
Mr. Laurier attacked the extravagant terms of the 
syndicate bargain as the inevitable outcome of the 
government's rash policy in promising the immediate 
completion of the road. If the road were built gradu- 
ally, as the real necessities of the country required, 
there would be no need to alienate to the syndicate vast 
areas of land which would better be reserved for home- 
stead grants: "Perhaps if that system were followed 
there might in a few years be fewer millionaires in this 
country, but there would be a much greater number of 
happy and contented homes." The company would be 
the landlord of the North- West, a monopoly with power 

251 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

to dominate the settlers either through its ownership of 
land or its control of the rates on their products. The 
company's exemption from taxation would retard com- 
petition and cripple the development of local govern- 
ments. While "a Canadian Pacific railway must be 
built on Canadian soil," the construction of the link north 
of Lake Superior might well be postponed for some 
years. It was a delusion to imagine that a contract such 
as this would end the government's obligations ; it merely 
added new inconveniences and new dangers. 

Neither in the country nor in the House did the 
efforts of the Opposition avail. The government had 
definitely committed itself before parliament met, and 
its large majority backed it without flinching. The 
public was more impressed than deterred by the sums 
involved. There was general distrust of state con- 
struction. Before the organization of the syndicate 
no alternative and feasible method had been suggested. 
Stephen and his associates were men of standing and 
tried capacity. The money-bags of London, Paris, 
Berlin, and New York were thought to be open to 
them. The benefits to the country from an energetic 
policy of construction were immediate; the ills the 
Opposition stressed were of to-morrow. The people 
welcomed a policy which was courageous and spectac- 
ular. For all the desire for economy in the abstract, a 
proposal to spend tens of millions of the country's and 
other peoples' money on railway projects and to create 
a wide demand for goods and labour of every kind 
proved immensely popular; henceforth that lesson was 

252 



UNDER A NEW LEADER 

to be so clear that every politician who ran could read it. 

The government's new policy had many strong 
features which the passing of time has only emphasized. 
Both parties and the country as a whole favoured 
private construction and operation. No government 
department of that day or this could have shown the 
energy and fertility of resource, made the necessary 
extensions and connections not only in eastern Canada 
but in the United States, undertaken the many sub- 
sidiary enterprises and assumed the initiative in seeking 
and building traffic which marked the operations of 
the Canadian Pacific. Probably the government was 
right, again, in deciding to give the contract to the 
Stephen rather than to the Rowland syndicate. The 
offer of the latter group was far from being the sham 
the government forces charged, and its members were 
hard-headed and energetic men who had made a success 
of large enterprises. Yet they were not first in the 
field, and it is difficult to imagine that they would have 
shown more courage or persistence or carried out their 
obligations more honourably than the men to whom the 
task was given. The public aid granted was large, but 
large aid was needed to induce investors to face the risks 
not only of building through unknown wildernesses but 
of operating a road for which little assured traffic was in 
sight. The country assumed a heavy burden, but the 
national issues at stake, the necessity of unifying the 
far-flung Dominion, justified no small sacrifices. 

Yet time has also brought out more clearly the 
weaknesses charged against the contract. The exemp- 

253 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

tion from taxation threw undue burdens on straggling 
settlers, and the monopoly clause, inserted to attract 
English investors, who, in Van Home's phrase, hated 
a monopoly at home as they hated the devil but looked 
with favour, born of experience of the working of 
competitive railways, on monopoly abroad, did not 
attract capital and did deter and hamper settlers. The 
land bonus failed to produce capital when capital was 
needed most, though it doubtless facilitated the raising 
of funds in later days. The private capital put into 
the road was not adequate, and in consequence the 
company was compelled to go to the government for 
aid again and again. 

Unfortunately but inevitably the Canadian Pacific 
project became a party question. It is the function of 
an Opposition to oppose, a course which often leads to 
factious quibbling but usually ensures responsible and 
guarded action. Smarting under electoral defeat, 
mindful of the earlier overthrow of the government on 
a railway issue, honestly convinced of the danger and 
extravagance of the new proposals, the Liberals 
launched a strong attack on the whole policy. Not con- 
tent with assailing the weak points of the contract, 
they were led into taking a position of hostility to the 
whole project. The complicated financial questions in- 
volved gave Blake's critical powers a congenial task. 
The government forces, convinced of the essential 
soundness of the policy, with equal lack of discrimina- 
tion felt called upon to defend every line and comma of 
the bargain. The action of the Canadian Pacific in 

254 



UNDER A NEW LEADER 

entering territory in eastern Canada which the Grand 
Trunk had long considered its private preserve, and 
the bitter quarrels that followed between the two roads, 
would in any event have been reflected in politics. The 
result was that for three general elections railway issues 
were always prominent and more than once decisive. 

Once the contract was ratified by parliament, no time 
was lost in grappling with the task ahead. A remark- 
able organization was built up. George Stephen, with 
his indomitable persistence and unfailing faith; R. B. 
Angus with his financial experience and shrewd judg- 
ment; James J. Hill, until in 1882 divergence of 
interests between the St. Paul and the new road led 
him to retire, and William C. Van Home, whose tireless 
driving force and freshness of resource marked him as 
one of the great railway men and one of the outstanding 
personalities of his time, were chiefly responsible for 
the efficiency and the success which the road achieved. 
Donald A. Smith's name had not appeared in the 
directorate until 1882; it had been only two years be- 
fore the formation of the syndicate that Macdonald, who 
never forgave Smith for casting what proved to be the 
de'ciding vote in turning him out of office on the Pacific 
scandal, and Tupper, who vigorously backed his chief, 
had exchanged with Smith hot and bitter words, in a 
fugue of "coward," "liar," "traitor," which fills six 
staccato pages of Hansard, ending with Macdonald's 
shout, 'That fellow Smith is the biggest liar I ever 
met"; a little time was necessary to permit the wrath 
of the two Highlanders to cool to the point where they 

255 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

could see how their interests ran. After 1882 Smith, 
though a member of the executive, took little part in the 
management ; it was not until the road was a success and 
an imperial asset which might serve as a basis for an im- 
perial title that he took any interest in it, half persuaded 
by the chance that he drove the last spike, into believing, 
as the public believed, that he had driven most of the 
earlier spikes. 

For the first three years the company concentrated 
on the plain and prairie sections, while the government 
completed the unfinished portions of the seven hundred 
miles it had under way, including the line from Fort 
William, on Lake Superior, to Winnipeg, and the Paci- 
fic coast section from Port Moody eastward to Kam- 
loops. After Van Home took hold, remarkable pro- 
gress was made in construction. A time schedule was 
prepared and rigidly observed ; track-layers and bridge- 
gangs followed hard on the grader's heels; week after 
week two and even three miles of track were laid every 
day. By December, 1882, the end of steel was 965 
miles from Winnipeg and only four miles short of the 
summit of the Rockies. 

The building of the prairie section was accompanied 
by the usual wave of speculation and seeming prosper- 
ity. The railway itself called for men, tools, supplies, 
in endless procession. Into the West tens of thousands 
of settlers and speculators poured, first by St. Paul 
and later through Fort William, staking out home- 
steads, filing pre-emption sections or buying Winnipeg 

256 



UNDER A NEW LEADER 

or Brandon town lots to unload on the tenderfoot fol- 
lowing. In Ontario, those who did not go west bought 
town lots or sold farm machinery or organized coloniza- 
tion companies to buy and people the land the govern- 
ment offered for a dollar an acre. In 1882 sixty thou- 
sand settlers swarmed into Manitoba, and nearly three 
million acres were entered by homesteading, pre-emp- 
tion, or sale. 

It was in this atmosphere that the general election of 
1882 was fought. It was a C. P. R. election, as 1878 
had been a N. P. election. The Liberal leaders found 
it difficult to get a hearing. It was useless to question 
the financial strength of a company which was setting 
new world records for rapidity of construction. It was 
wasted breath to attack the government's lavish terms 
before men who were pocketing real or paper profits 
from the activities those grants had caused or primed. 
The Canadian Pacific Railway Company itself was not, 
so far as was known, a participant in the campaign, but 
its seemingly assured success was an overwhelming 
argument in support of the administration. The 
Liberals had attacked both the N. P. and the C. P. R., 
and at this stage the success of both appeared to vindi- 
cate Macdonald's policy. 

Before appealing to the country, the government 
made assurance doubly sure by a measure which the 
Liberals denounced as a colossal gerrymander. The 
decennial census of 1881 had shown numerous shifts in 
the balance of population and rendered necessary a re- 

257 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

distribution of seats in the federal parliament. The 
opportunity was improved to the full in the Redistribu- 
tion Bill. The bill dealt almost exclusively with On- 
tario and Manitoba, the only provinces where the ratio 
of population to that of the pivotal province, Quebec, 
had materially changed. Under cover of granting On- 
tario four additional representatives, the boundaries of 
fifty electoral divisions were redrawn, with complete 
disregard of county boundaries or consistent principles. 
There was no question that the purpose was, in Mac- 
donald's phrase, "to hive the Grits," and to snatch for 
the party in power an unfair advantage at the polls. 
Blake riddled the inconsistencies and denounced the in- 
justice of the project, but the majority paid no heed. 
The gerrymander was forced through. Macdonald had 
won; Blake had lost. What was more serious, parlia- 
ment and the country had lost : for many a year the level 
of political life in Canada was lowered by this triumph 
of unscrupulous partisanship. 

The general elections were held on June 20, 1882. 
Neither Blake nor Laurier had any expectation of win- 
ning, but they hoped that the government's majority 
would be cut. The result left the parties virtually as 
they were. The government once more carried two 
seats to one, with a majority in every province except 
Prince Edward Island and Manitoba. Quebec contin- 
ued to be the chief Conservative stronghold, returning 
three Conservatives to one Liberal, whereas in Ontario 
the popular vote was evenly divided, though the gerry- 

258 



> 

UNDER A NEW LEADER 

mander gave the government threx seats to two. 1 None 
of the government leaders were defeated; among the 
Liberals, Cartwright, Mills, Huntington, Anglin, 
Smith, Jones, Laird, and Laflamme had fallen. Mr. 
Laurier was re-elected by a safe but decreased majority 
in Quebec East. The country was too prosperous to 
seek a change. Manufacturers, shareholders in North- 
west colonization companies, dealers in railway sup- 
plies, wished to let well enough alone. As for the Can- 
adian Pacific, the country wanted the road, and did not 
care to read the fine print in the contract. Depres- 
sion had killed the Mackenzie government; prosperity 
gave the Macdonald government a new lease of life. 



1878 1882 





Conservatives 


Liberals 


Conservatives 


Liberals 


Prince Edward 


Island 5 


1 


4 


2 


Nova Scotia 


14 


7 


15 


6 


New Brunswick 


5 


11 


10 


6 


Quebec 
Ontario 


45 
59 


20 
29 


48 
54 


17 

38 


Manitoba 


3 


1 


2 


3 


British Columbia 


6 





6 






Total 137 69 139 72 



259 



CHAPTER VI 

RAIL AND KIEL 

Blake, the Orange Order, and Home Rule The Canadian Pacific 
in Difficulties The Strike of the Bleus The Crisis Surmounted 
The Prairie in Transition The Half-Breed Grievances Kiel's 
Career The Storm Breaks The Hanging of Kiel The Parlia- 
mentary Debate The Issue in Ontario and Quebec Saskatch- 
ewan Muskets Laurier's Indictment Before Ontario Audiences 
The Aftermath. 

THE parliament which met in February, 1883, and 
was dissolved in January, 1887, was the fifth 
since Confederation, the fourth under Macdon- 
ald's premiership, the second with Blake leading the 
Opposition. In its four sessions the tariff counted 
little; for the earlier years the Canadian Pacific domi- 
nated discussion, and at the close the Franchise Act and 
the Riel rebellion. 

Macdonald changed but did not strengthen his cab- 
inet. Sir Charles Tupper succeeded Sir A. T. Gait as 
Canadian High Commissioner in London, endeavour- 
ing at the same time to hold his post as Minister of Rail- 
ways. He was keen to try his hand at the diplomatic 
tasks opening up in Britain and the Continent, but did 
not wish to be side-tracked at home, and so for two 
years he shuttled back and forth across the Atlantic. 
John Carling, John Costigan, Frank Smith, and A. W. 

260 



RAIL AND KIEL 

McLelan were the new men, with J. A. Chapleau in 
J. A. Mousseau's stead. 

After his first disappointment at the size of the gov- 
ernment's majority, Blake was heartened by the rise of 
issues which gave the scope and promise he desired. 
The intricacies of the financing of the Canadian Pacific 
particularly appealed to him, and he made himself mas- 
ter of the situation. The only drawback to his interest 
was that he was so much the master that nothing was left 
for his lieutenants but to repeat some of the countless 
points he had made. Not until the franchise debate 
toward the parliament's end was a satisfactory division 
of labour arranged and full use made of the abundant 
capacity in the ranks behind him. Outside of the 
House, Blake carried on an active and persistent cam- 
paign. Now or never, he believed, the government 
must be overthrown. 

Laurier continued to divide his time between his law 
practice, his library, and the House. Arthabaska still 
gave a pleasant home and a comfortable practice; he 
found time in 1882 to perform the onerous duties of 
mayor. In the House he took part in the debates 
rarely, and only on the major issues. Outside he spoke 
frequently, mainly in Quebec. He joined Blake in a 
speaking tour through the Eastern Townships in the 
summer of 1883 and Cartwright in Montreal later. At 
Mercier banquets, at St. Jean-Baptiste celebrations, at 
the Club National's annual dinner, he discussed politics 
and public life with a powej* of detachment, of seeing 
woods as well as the trees, of scrupulous fairness com- 

261 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

bined with vigorous condemnation, which gave him a 
place apart in the life of Quebec. 

The provincial situation gave ground for reasoned 
hope. In Quebec, the bitter fight between the Chap- 
leau and the Castor wings of the Conservatives and the 
indefatigable assaults of Mercier were undermining the 
government's position. To the older Liberals, more 
attached to principles than to office, it was, however, 
not wholly satisfactory to see the way to a Liberal vic- 
tory being paved by an alliance between Mercier and 
the most irreconcilable among the Castors. A reorgani- 
zation of the government under Dr. J. J. Ross, gave 
somewhat more weight to the Castor wing, but did not 
wholly heal the breach. 

In Ontario, Mowat was again victorious in the gen- 
eral elections of 1883, though with a reduced majority. 
Mowat forced the fighting on the provincial-rights 
issue, called a Liberal convention which proclaimed un- 
dying resistance to jealous premiers and jealous Bleus, 
fought the boundary case and its sequel through in the 
courts, won out on the control of liquor-licensing, and 
wore out Macdonald's resistance by passing again and 
again his Rivers and Streams Bill. Handicapped by 
the unpopular side in these repeated controversies, Mer- 
edith sought to change the ground. Each party ac- 
cused the other of angling for the Irish Catholic vote. 
Certainly the relations between Mowat and Arch- 
bishop Lynch were extremely cordial and the influence 
of the palace was thrown to the Liberal side. On the 
other hand, a frank if not flagrant bid for support was 

262 



RAIL AND KIEL 

made by the Conservative forces, seemingly not without 
Meredith's knowledge, by the issue on the eve of the 
1883 election of a pamphlet, "Facts for the Irish Elec- 
tors," declaring that the Conservative party had been 
"the faithful sentinel of our interests," and that Mowat 
had always been an enemy and Meredith a friend. 
After the election the Opposition swung around and 
struck for the ultra-Protestant vote. Was not Arch- 
bishop Lynch Oliver Mowat's father confessor? Had 
not the government submitted the "Ross Bible," a col- 
lection of Scripture readings for public schools, pre- 
pared under the direction of the Minister of Education, 
George W. Ross, to Archbishop Lynch, who had sug- 
gested the substitution of "which" for "who" in the 
Lord's Prayer, and did not all Protestants, in the words 
of a fervent orator, stand for "the Bible, the whole 
damned Bible"? Had not the same sinister influence 
resulted in the exclusion of Scott's "Marmion" from the 
school curriculum because of its assumed reflections on 
the Church? Meredith himself did not relish "riding 
George Brown's old Protestant horse," but many of his 
followers had no such scruple. 

In the federal house a somewhat parallel situation 
arose. By accident or by design Blake took a stand on 
two questions, Irish Home Rule and the incorporation 
of the Orange Order, which was calculated to win the 
sympathies of the Catholic and particularly the Irish 
Catholic voter. Macdonald's power had rested for 
many a year on the votes of Catholic Quebec; there 
could have been no complaint had Blake deliberately 

263 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

sought a similar support in other provinces. Yet, so far 
as that subtle mind may be understood, it seems clear 
that Blake's stand was taken because of deep and sincere 
conviction. 

The Loyal Orange Association, which had grown up 
in Ulster as a secret society seeking to perpetuate "the 
glorious, pious, and immortal memory of the great and 
good King William who saved us from popery, slavery, 
knavery, brass money and wooden shoes," and inciden- 
tally to maintain Protestant ascendancy, was stronger 
in Canada than in any other country outside Ireland it- 
self. Particularly in Ontario, it was overwhelmingly 
Conservative in sympathies. The leaders of the order, 
therefore, were not unmindful of the embarrassment 
which might be caused a Grit government when in 1873 
they pressed in the Ontario house for incorporation. 
The bills were passed by a slight majority and with a 
divided cabinet, but Mowat had them reserved for the 
governor-general's pleasure, only to have Macdonald 
decline to take any such responsibility and to send them 
back to Toronto. In the following session Mowat in- 
troduced and passed a general measure whereunder any 
benevolent society might find incorporation, but the 
Orangemen pressed again and again for more direct 
recognition. Then in 1883, with much division of opin- 
ion, they sought in the Dominion house a general incor- 
porating act which would give them standing and the 
right to hold property in every province. The govern- 
ment induced its sponsors to drop the bill, but it came 
up again in 1884. Blake was not content to give a 

264 



RAIL AND KIEL 

silent vote. Speaking appropriately on March 17, he 
declared that the matter was wholly for the provinces, 
that no secret society should be given state recognition 
and that the Orange order was merely a disguised 
branch of the Tory party. The measure was thrown 
out by the Liberal and Quebec vote, and not again 
brought forward. Blake was lectured, pamphleted, 
attacked from all quarters, but he held to his position. 

On the Home Rule issue, Blake felt still more keenly. 
A Protestant of Protestants, evangelical in all his tra- 
ditions and surroundings, great-grandson of a man who 
had been killed fighting the insurgents of '98, he had 
yet been brought by his study of Irish history to an in- 
tense and abiding sympathy with Irish aspirations and 
a vigorous condemnation of the arrogance and stupidity 
of English policy. Now that Parnell and Gladstone 
were making Home Rule a fighting issue, he and the 
great majority of men of Southern Irish descent in 
Canada felt that Canada should have a word to say in 
the settlement. They met with stubborn opposition. 
Ulstermen were numerous and well organized; the mem- 
ories of Fenian plots and Fenian Raid fiascoes were 
strong in Canada; besides, if Canada claimed the right 
of self-government, why not permit the United King- 
dom to enjoy the same privilege? When in 1882 John 
Costigan, Macdonald's leading Irish-Catholic sup- 
porter, introduced in the Commons a resolution advo- 
cating Home Rule, Blake supported it vigorously, and 
condemned Costigan for his weakness in consenting to 
water down his original resolution to meet Macdonald's 

265 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

objections. When Lord Kimberley, Secretary for the 
Colonies, snubbed the Canadian parliament frigidly for 
its presumption, Blake declined to be snubbed by a Kim- 
berley, and returned to the charge. In 1886 he raised 
the question in a powerful speech, and once more put the 
Canadian parliament on record. 

But these were only side issues. In the new parlia- 
ment, the Canadian Pacific continued to be the foremost 
question. The going was now becoming harder for the 
railway and incidentally for the government. It had 
been comparatively easy to build a road through the 
prairie, and though the plains to the west presented 
some engineering difficulties, and it was necessary to 
transport supplies long distances, the obstacles hitherto 
had been in no way unprecedented. But now the com- 
pany was facing the mountain and Lake Superior sec- 
tions. Its engineers had to find a way through the 
seemingly hopeless tangle of mountain peaks in the Sel- 
kirk range which faced the Kicking Horse Pass, to 
carve a track down the canons of the Columbia and to 
guard the line against the threatened avalanche of 
mountain snows. North of Lake Superior they had to 
bridge a way over swamp and muskeg so voracious that 
to-day in one muskeg area seven layers of Canadian 
Pacific rails are buried, one below the other, and to blast 
a way through miles of Laurentian rock so massive and 
unyielding that it was necessary to build a dynamite fac- 
tory on the spot and to spend half to three-quarters of a 
million a mile on more than one stretch of road. 

At the same time the promise of rapid settlement and 

266 

\ 



RAIL AND KIEL 

development of the West faded away. Frost and 
drought fell on the land and settlers who had not yet 
learned the ways of the country reaped little for their 
pains. The Manitoba boom collapsed, homesteaders 
abandoned their holdings, mushroom cities fell away 
again into prairie, colonization companies were wound 
up and Eastern speculators saw their profits shrivel to 
nothingness. Homestead entries, which reached 7,500 
in 1882, fell to one-half that number in 1883, and one- 
fourth in 1885. Later, the North- West rebellion, the 
discontent produced by monopoly railway rates and the 
high price of farm implements, the counter attractions 
of Minnesota and Dakota and the adverse propaganda 
of rival railways deterred settlement. Not for a score 
of years was the West to come into its own and justify 
the faith of those who had urged and those who had 
shared in its development. With construction tasks 
ahead which would call for tremendous outlay and with 
the West and Western lands condemned by the sudden 
slackening of settlement, the Canadian Pacific in 1883 
faced a series of financial crises which all but brought 
it to bankruptcy. 

The company's situation was made more difficult by 
the necessity of acquiring feeders and connections, par- 
ticularly in the East. t It was realized from the begin- 
ning that so long as the Canadian Pacific remained a 
single-track road which began in the wilderness near 
Lake Nipissing and ended on the untenanted Pacific it 
was not likely to secure paying traffic. The manage- 
ment therefore sought to build or buy or lease branches 

267 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

in the thickly settled territories of the East which soon 
equalled in mileage the whole main line. The greater 
part of this expansion was effected through leases or the 
organization of subsidiary companies, involving no great 
drain on the treasury of the parent road. Yet some 
mortgaging of the company's funds was involved, and 
what was perhaps more serious, the Grand Trunk was 
roused by this invasion of its preserves to assail its young 
rival at home and block it in the money markets across 
the sea. 

The financing of the Canadian Pacific presented sev- 
eral unique features. The country contributed the 
major part of the funds required for construction. It 
presented the company with a clear gift of seven hun- 
dred miles of road, which cost the government over $35,- 
000,000 to survey and build but undoubtedly was worth 
much less to the company. It granted a cash subsidy of 
$25,000,000, paid as earned, a larger proportion being 
assigned per mile to the mountain and Lake Superior 
sections than to the plains. It granted a land subsidy 
of 25,000,000 acres of selected land. The land was not 
immediately available; the competition of the free 
homestead land alongside, and the campaign of depreci- 
ation carried on by the Grand Trunk offset the energetic 
endeavours of the company to find settlers and a market 
for its holdings. Bonds issued on the security of the 
land grant met little greater response. By 1885 some 
$11,000,000 had been secured from this source. 

The amount of private capital invested during con- 

268 



RAIL AND KIEL 

struction was less than the promoters expected and less 
than the interests of both the company and the country 
required. The millions of English, French, and Ger- 
man capitalists proved a mirage, and the original 
nucleus of the syndicate, the St. Paul group, found 
themselves compelled to shoulder a greater part of the 
burden than they had foreseen. In seeking capital, to 
an extent unprecedented in railway history they relied 
upon the sale of shares, and avoided the issuing of 
bonds. This policy was adopted deliberately as a result 
of close study of the fate of many United States roads 
which had found themselves hopelessly waterlogged by 
excessive bond issues, and had been forced by foreclos- 
ure out of the original shareholders' hands. If it suc- 
ceeded, fixed charges would be kept low until earning 
power was well developed^ Whether or not it could 
succeed was more doubtful: to market the stock at a 
price which would bring into the treasury funds compar- 
able to what could have been secured by the sale of 
bonds was no easy task. The first issues of stock were 
marketed at a heavy discount. Of the $100,000,000 
authorized, the first $5,000,000 was subscribed by the 
syndicate at par, and the next $10,000,000 at 25; $50,- 
000,000 additional was sold privately or through Ameri- 
can bankers at prices netting about 50; from the $65,- 
000,000 stock issued during the construction period 
about $31,000,000 came into the treasury. It was 
partly with the intention of making the stock attractive 
that the company paid interest on it, water and all, from 

269 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

the beginning. The Railway Act permitted the pay- 
ment of interest during construction, but not to exceed 
six per cent, on the actual investment. 

Toward the close of 1883 the company seemed to have 
reached the end of its tether. Funds were badly 
needed, and investors were coy. To meet this situa- 
tion, the executive, fortified by the advice of New York 
and London financiers, adopted the precarious polidy of 
using current funds to secure future dividends and thus 
render the stock more attractive to prudent purchasers. 
They undertook to purchase from the Dominion gov- 
ernment a guaranty of a three per cent, dividend for ten 
years on the stock already issued, by depositing $16,- 
000,000, the cost of such a terminable annuity calculated 
at four per cent. Over half of this sum was deposited 
in cash, and security given for the early payment of the 
balance. A similar provision was to be made on the 
sale of any part of the remaining $35,000,000 of unis- 
sued stock. This dividend might be supplemented 
from any current surplus available, but for ten years 
shareholders would be assured at least of their three per 
cent. 

The policy was of doubtful expediency at the best. 
It meant locking up for dividends funds that were ur- 
gently needed for construction. It was not calculated 
to reassure investors as to the earnings of the road once 
the ten-year guaranty expired. It was open to serious 
criticism from the point of view of the people who were 
advancing the main share of the funds. What would 
have been the outcome of the guaranty policy, had it 

270 



RAIL AND KIEL 

been persistently followed, is matter for conjecture. 
Scarcely had the arrangement been made when the 
smash of the Northern Pacific sent all Western railway 
stocks down in sympathy, and Canadian Pacific sold 
lower than before the guaranty. Clearly, rescue would 
not come from the general investing public: 

In this emergency the Canadian members of the syn- 
dicate gave of their cash and credit to the utmost. 
Stephen and Smith pledged their St. Paul and other 
stocks in Montreal and New York to make advances to 
the road, but to no lasting purpose. There seemed only 
one recourse left,- -the sil'ent partner who had sunk so 
much in the road that perchance he could not refuse to 
advance the remainder. They determined to ask the 
government for a loan of $22,500,000. Twenty-odd 
million, it must be remembered, meant infinitely more 
in the frugal eighties than it meant in later years when 
heady prosperity and particularly unsettling war and 
rash inflation had changed all standards. In the eight- 
ies it meant nearly a whole year's revenue of the federal 
government. 

Late in the winter of 1883 Stephen, Angus, Mcln- 
tyre, Van Home, and the C. P. R. solicitor, J. J. C. 
Abbott, went down to Ottawa to seek to convince Sir 
John of their and the country's necessity. * They drove 
out at night to Earnscliffe, and put their case before 
him, making it plain that every other resource had been 
exhausted and that the sum they asked was the least re- 

i The writer is indebted to the late Sir William Van Home for the de- 
tails of this incident. 

271 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

quired to see them through. Macdonald heard them 
patiently, but gave no comfort : "Gentlemen, I need not 
detain you long. You might as well ask for the planet 
Jupiter. I would not give you the millions you ask, 
and if I did the cabinet would not agree, and if they 
did it would smash the party. Now, gentlemen, I did 
not have much sleep last night, and I should like to get 
to bed. I am sorry, but there is no use discussing the 
question further." They tried to argue the matter, 
but he would not listen. Somewhat apprehensive, 
from the beginning, of the greatness of the country's 
risk, sharing in the reaction that had come with the 
slackening of settlement and the bankruptcy of 
^Western roads, not convinced that this application 
would be the last, fully aware of the opening a further 
loan would give an eager Opposition, Macdonald felt 
the time had come to call a halt. He bowed the 
petitioners out and went to bed. 

Blue and dejected and silent, Stephen and his asso- 
ciates drove back to town, to wait for the four-o'clock 
morning train to Montreal. They decided to spend 
the hours that intervened at the old Bank of Montreal 
cottage. Here John Henry Pope, who was acting 
Minister of Railways during Tupper's absence in 
England, had rooms. They found him lying on a 
couch, reading, with a strong habitant cigar in his 
mouth and a glass of whiskey at his side. He turned 
over, offered cigars, put his feet up on a chair, and 
questioned, "Well, what's up?" Stephen told him 
briefly, while Mclntyre danced about excitedly. Pope 

272 





George Stephen 

Later Lord Mount Stephen 

First President 



Richard B. Angus 
Vice-President 





Sir William C. Van Home 
General Manager and later President 



Donald Smith 

Later Lord Strathcona 

Director 

BUILDERS OF THE CANADIAN PACIFIC 



RAIL AND KIEL 

listened, got up slowly, lighted another cigar, put on his 
old otter cap and shaggy coat, called a carriage it was 
then after one o'clock and departed, with the words, 
"Wait till I get back." An hour and a half later he 
returned, entered without a word, kicked off his rub- 
bers, hung up cap and coat, poured out another glass 
of whiskey, and lighted a cigar, all with deliberation and 
an impassive face, while his visitors waited, with their 
hearts in their mouths, for the fateful word. "Well, 
boys," he broke the silence at last, "he '11 do it. Stay 
over till to-morrow." Pope had roused Macdonald out 
of bed and put the case before him with the intimacy of 
an old friend and the effectiveness of a shrewd party 
counsellor. "The day the Canadian Pacific busts," he 
summed it up, "the Conservative party busts the day 
after." 

The deputation saw Sir John and his colleagues the 
next morning. Macdonald was grouchy; Alexander 
Campbell opposed any further aid ; Tilley, the Minister 
of Finance, wanted to take the road over. Pope 
fought it through in council, and the agreement was 
made. It still remained to convince the party. For 
this no half-hearted convictions would suffice. Tupper 
was cabled to return from England. He approved the 
cabinet's decision, and stormed it through caucus, ap- 
pealing to the members as party men, whose fortunes 
were bound up with the road's success, and as Cana- 
dians, who could not allow a great national enterprise to 
fail within sight of completion. To give the appear- 
ance of a quid pro quo, the company was to agree to 

273 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

complete the transcontinental line by May 1, 1886, five 
years in advance of the time provided in the contract. 
The majority appeared to be convinced, but danger was 
not yet over. The Quebec Bleus determined to take 
advantage of the government's straits to force through 
another railway deal which had hitherto hung fire. 
The Conservative administration in Quebec was in 
financial difficulties, as a result of extravagance and 
jobbery. It had put itself in funds once by the sale of 
the provincial North Shore Railway, from Quebec to 
Montreal and Ottawa, to a local syndicate and eventu- 
ally to the Canadian Pacific. The policy announced 
by the Dominion government in 1882 of subsidizing new 
roads which though wholly within one province might be 
considered of general advantage seemed to open a way 
for further relief. The provincial government and the 
Bleu members at Ottawa demanded that this policy be 
made retroactive so far as the North Shore line was con- 
cerned. The cabinet had refused. Now the Bleus had 
the government at their mercy. They withdrew from 
the House during the debates on the Pacific resolutions, 
meeting in conference by themselves, while M. Mous- 
seau and his colleagues in the provincial administration 
came to Ottawa to join in presenting the ultimatum. 
Finally, Macdonald capitulated and the strike was 
called off. The government's majority was safe, and 
the Opposition, if it could not be answered, was at least 
outvoted. 

When the resolution granting the province of Quebec 
$2,394,000, "in consideration of their having con- 

274 



RAIL AND KIEL 

structed the railway from Quebec to Ottawa ... a 
work of national and not merely provincial utility," was 
before the House, Blake moved and Laurier seconded 
an amendment deprecating singling out Quebec for 
such aid when other provinces had equally devoted large 
sums to building roads of national utility. Laurier 
particularly warned the members from Quebec against 
the danger of coercive action: 

It is always a fault on the part of a minority in any legis- 
lative assembly to throw obstacles in the way of a government 
in order to force them to act against their will. . . . All ques- 
tions coming before this House should be decided according 
to justice, equity and fairness. If the Pacific resolutions were 
just and reasonable, it was their duty to adopt them; if they 
were unjust and unreasonable, it was their duty to object 
to them. There is in the Dominion no body of men who should 
always be so careful to adhere to principles of justice as the 
Quebec contingent in this House, which must always be in 
a minority. 

For this stand, Laurier was warmly attacked in the 
province of Quebec, but he held a great op en-air meet- 
ing in the Champ de Mars, in Quebec city, and was tri- 
umphantly endorsed by his constituents; his old school 
friend and later political antagonist, Israel Tarte, editor 
of the chief Quebec Conservative organ, "Le Canadien," 
who was for the moment at outs with his party, joined 
in his defence. 

The Pacific crisis had passed for the moment, but 
soon it reappeared. The loan was quickly exhausted in 
rapid and costly construction. The government, as 
security for the advance, had taken a mortgage not only 

275 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

on the main line but on all the company's interests in the 
Eastern branch lines, their unsold stock, and their land 
grant. When further funds were needed, it was found 
impossible to borrow or to sell stock with a blanket 
mortgage covering every asset of the road. Once more 
in the winter of 1884-85, the directors approached the 
government. They had been forced at last to abandon 
their policy of relying on stock rather than on bond 
issues. They requested that the unissued $35,000,000 
stock in the government's hands be cancelled, that an 
equal amount of five per cent, first-mortgage bonds be 
issued, and that the government should accept a portion 
of this issue as its security, leaving the balance free 
for disposal in open market. The government refused 
any further aid or variation. Early in January Van 
Home met Pope: "Why not put us out of our misery? 
Let us go off into some corner and bust?" Pope replied 
that the government was too much afraid of what 
Louis Kiel and his half-breed followers in the North- 
West might do, to undertake any further entangle- 
ments. They feared a dangerous outbreak in the 
Spring. Kiel's emissaries were out stirring up the 
Indian tribes. When the grass grew, the Indians would 
move. Three thousand men could cope with them at 
the start; later it might take two years and fifty thou- 
sand men. "I wish your C. P. R. was through." Van 
Home had had experience in military transportation 
during the Civil War. "When could your regiments 
be ready?" "The first or second week in March." 
Van Home told Pope and later the council that he could 

276 



RAIL AND KIEL 

get regiments through from Kingston or Quebec to 
Qu'Appelle on the Saskatchewan in ten days. The 
members of council did not credit him. "Has any one 
a better plan?" asked Macdonald. None had, and Van 
Home was told to prepare. There was a stretch of 
two hundred and fifty miles between Dog Lake and 
Nipigon, which did not seem passable; in half of it no 
tracks were laid, and where rails were, rolling-stock 
was lacking. Yet six days after the first troops, the 
batteries from Kingston and Quebec, had left Ottawa, 
on March 28, they were in Winnipeg and could have 
been in Qu'Appelle in seven. When the troops reached 
the first gap of forty miles they were bundled into 
sleighs and driven along the tote-roads through the 
woods. Then came a stretch of ninety miles with rails 
laid but only three locomotives and forty flat-cars. 
The sleighs and teams were loaded on the cars and the 
whole outfit carried through the bitterly cold. Lake 
Superior snows. Then a trackless gap, then a flat-car 
stretch, and so on to the end. In more than one place 
rails had been laid down over the snow and ice. Camps 
and provisions had been supplied along the way. It 
was a triumph of energy and organization. In 1870 
it had taken Wolseley and his men more than two 
months to reach Fort Garry; had the same delay oc- 
curred in 1885, and assuming also that the government 
had persisted in its supine neglect of the grievances 
which gave Riel his opportunity, the half-breed rebellion 
and the Indian rising would have proved infinitely more 
dangerous and destructive. Why, knowing the danger, 

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LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

the government took no effective steps to check it in 
advance, is another question. 

The national service thus conspicuously rendered by 
the Canadian Pacific made the government more ame- 
nable to its requests and the Opposition less vigorous in 
its resistance. Van Home even suggested that the 
Canadian Pacific ought to erect a monument to Louis 
Kiel. The government agreed to cancel the $35,000,- 
000 stock and authorized the issue of a similar amount 
of bonds. For the thirty millions which were due it 
from the company, including the 1884 loan and the 
balance due on the 1883 guaranty agreement, it was 
arranged to accept $20,000,000 first-mortgage bonds, 
and the unsold twenty million acres of the land grant 
as full security. Of the $15,000,000 bonds thus avail- 
able for sale, the company was to deposit $8,000,000 
as security for a temporary one-year loan of $5,000,000. 

Yet the company was not yet out of the woods. The 
Opposition must register its criticisms and point to 
the confirmation of its earlier prophecies, while the 
government was not prepared to carry through the 
necessary legislation until the success of other measures 
was assured. 

All that could be said against the government's 
policy, in this and previous years, was said in an ex- 
traordinarily comprehensive and powerful speech by 
Blake, which was said to have taken seven weeks to 
prepare and seven hours to deliver. Replying to Pope 
and Chapleau, who had moved the government resolu- 
tions, Blake asked why they had neglected to refer to 

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RAIL AND KIEL 

the acquisition by the Canadian Pacific of the Lauren- 
tian road, in which Mr. Chapleau's friends were in- 
terested, or the International, equally close to Mr. 
Pope; scored the lack of detailed information in the 
company's financial reports, the use of company funds 
to sustain artificially the stock of the Canada North- 
West Land Company, and the bargain, on terms not 
revealed, with a construction company in which the 
railway directors were interested; attacked the policy 
of rapid and reckless construction, increasing cost, scat- 
tering settlement, and stimulating speculation; insisted 
that the company's difficulties were due to its own 
peculiar financial policies; calculated the aid given by 
the government, in cash subsidy, loans, and the proceeds 
of lands or land bonds sold, omitting completed govern- 
ment road and unsold lands, to the close of 1884, at 
$60,000,000, and the cost up to that time of the con- 
struction and equipment of the main line at only 
$58,000,000; declared that the $37,000,000 raised by 
the company from private sources had gone half into 
Eastern expansion and connections and half into pay- 
ing or securing dividends; calculated that up to Feb- 
ruary, 1886, the company would have paid out in 
dividends or set aside to pay future dividends $24,500,- 
000, which was exactly the sum invested, excluding the 
last pending issue of $10,000,000 stock, disposed of for 
half its par value, so that "in substance the proceeds 
of the stock are divided among the stockholders; we 
are to raise money to build the road, and the country 
is to pay tolls for all time to meet the dividends on 

279 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

the stock so divided"; and concluded by demanding 
that the company, instead of seeking $15,000,000 fresh 
money, should take back the $14,000,000 left in the 
government's hands for dividends, and put it into the 
building of the road. 

D'Alton McCarthy, in the only other speech in the 
debate which was at all comparable to Blake's in force 
and keenness, replied that the expenditure on Eastern 
branches was indispensable and rightly considered a 
part of the original plan; that the money paid out or 
set aside for dividends as yet was only $20,000,000 and 
that some $7,000,000 of this was furnished by the 
government and set aside as a charge against the road; 
that the guaranty arrangement, while extraordinary, 
was made in good faith and on expert advice as the 
only feasible way of securing further funds; and that 
the money thus set aside had been entrusted by the 
government to the Bank of Montreal for the payment 
of dividends, that shares had been sold on the strength 
of this agreement, and that the money -could not be 
withdrawn without repudiation and breaking of faith. 

It was, however, not the Opposition's argument but 
the government's delays that worried the company. 
Though the government had a majority of nearly two 
to one in the Commons, they were not finding it easy to 
jam through the long and contentious programme of 
legislation they had prepared. The session was the 
longest in Canadian annals, lasting from January 29 
to July 20. Aside from the North- West rebellion and 
the Canadian Pacific issue, other questions proved con- 

280 



RAIL AND KIEL 

tentious, prohibition of liquor traffic, civil-service reform, 
subsidies to minor railways, and particularly the 
Franchise Bill, devised to substitute in federal elections 
a uniform federal property franchise, based on lists 
prepared by federal agents, for the provincial franchise, 
based on lists prepared by provincial and, incidentally, 
Liberal, agencies. Seven-hour speeches, an unbroken 
three-days' sitting, and ninety-three divisions of the 
House, were features of the contest. 

To no one did the session appear so long as to the 
directors of the Canadian Pacific. Macdonald insisted 
that the railway legislation would not be passed until 
the Franchise Bill was out of the way; he would not 
risk the postponement of a measure on which he had 
so set his heart, and considered it good tactics to com- 
pel all other seekers of legislation to use their influence 
to clear the way. The middle of July came, and the 
railway was in hard straits. Its credit and the credit 
of its backers had again been stretched to the breaking 
point. The credit of its friends had been utilized; 
Frank Smith, who besides being a cabinet minister 
in Ottawa was a wholesale merchant in Toronto, had 
given credit for essential supplies beyond the point of 
safety. A payment of four hundred thousand dollars 
had to be made before three o'clock on July 11, to 
a creditor who declined to accept any renewal. The 
Canadian Pacific, which in later 1 days could borrow 
at will by the hundred million, could not meet this 
claim. Its directors faced a receivership and loss of 
control. At twelve o'clock the bill passed and the road 

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LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

was saved. Stephen went to London, and without dif- 
ficulty floated the $15,000,000 bonds through the 
Barings. The $5,000,000 borrowed from the govern- 
ment was returned without being used, the company 
incidentally finding almost as much difficulty in giving 
it back as in securing it, since Mackenzie Bowell, 
who was acting premier during Sir John's absence in 
England, could not understand a railway paying back 
a loan ahead of time, and suspected a trap. 

On November 7, 1885, the last spike in the main 
line was driven. A train carrying Smith, Van Home, 
and Sandford Fleming had come through from Mont- 
real to Craigellachie, in Eagle Pass in the Gold Range, 
where eastward and westward track-layers were to meet. 
Van Home had determined there would be no ceremo- 
nious speeches or driving of golden spikes. Less than 
two years before, the Northern Pacific had celebrated 
its completion by organizing an excursion, at a cost 
of a third of a million, to take part in driving a last 
golden spike, and as the train laden with investors and 
brokers and champagne passed through what seemed 
to the watchers from the car windows the hopelessly 
arid deserts of Montana, on a scorching summer day, 
the guests had one by one slipped out at passing stations 
to use their free telegram blanks to order their stock 
unloaded ; and scarcely had the golden spike been driven 
when the road was bankrupt. But Smith would drive 
a spike, if an iron one, and Van Home gave him his way. 
The train passed on to Port Moody, crossing the con- 
tinent in exactly five days. 

282 



RAIL AND KIEL 

To the general public, the great task was over. To 
the men in control, it was only beginning. Ballast had 
to be laid, wooden trestles filled with earth or replaced 
with stone or steel, curves straightened, grades less- 
ened, rolling-stock increased, and terminals built or ex- 
tended. What was more difficult, traffic had to be built 
up. For a thousand miles the road ran through moun- 
tain range and rocky waste. Even in plains and 
prairie, settlement had gone little way : when the Cana- 
dian Pacific began construction, the white settlers in 
the belt of twenty miles on each side of the line between 
Portage la Prairie and Kamloops, some twelve hun- 
dred miles, could be counted on the fingers of one hand. 
To find business the company capitalized its scenery, 
carried buffalo bones while waiting for wheat, pushed 
its Ontario and Quebec extensions, developed traffic at 
both United States ends of the line, sought settlers in 
England, aided industries at strategic points, organ- 
ized a loyal and efficient staff, and by unremitting effort 
met operating expenses, paid a dividend, and accu- 
mulated a surplus every year from the beginning. The 
company's obligations to the government were promptly 
met. In March, 1886, the cash advanced upon the 
security of the $20,000,000 bonds was repaid, and for 
the balance of the indebtedness the government agreed 
to take back some six million acres of the land grant 
at $1.50 per acre. By the following year the company 
was in uncontrolled possession of its property, and the 
prophecies of repudiation confounded. 

The Canadian Pacific was not a vital issue in the 

283 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

general election of 1887. The road was built; the 
loans had been repaid. What would be its measure 
of eventual success, whether the prophecies of monopoly 
and stagnation would come true, were matters for 
future accounting. Issues that appealed more to the 
average voter had arisen. And yet the Canadian 
Pacific was not out of politics, as the election of 1891 
was to make clear. 

Now in the middle eighties the sudden flare of armed 
rebellion and bloody conflict drove all thought of 
abstruse constitutional disputes and tariff or railway 
issues from men's minds. The insurrection of the 
French- Canadian half-breeds on the banks of the Sas- 
katchewan in 1885 put the newly cemented unity of 
the Dominion to a perilous test. And hardly had the 
hasty levies of Canadian volunteers restored order in 
the West, when in the East a yet severer strain came 
with the outburst once more of the sectional and racial 
and religious strife which Confederation had sought to 
allay. 

Canada had had its share of the difficulties that face 
a colonizing people in contact with a less advanced 
civilization. In dealing with the Indian tribes who held 
the land when the white man came, no small success had 
been attained. The British government had set a 
splendid example of just and considerate treatment, 
and Canadian governments fully maintained that 
policy. The country was spared the countless breaches 
of faith which marked the dealings of the United States 

284 



RAIL AND KIEL 

with its Indian wards, and spared the wars and mas- 
sacres which followed as retribution. But in dealing 
with the half-breeds of the Western plains the Cana- 
dian government displayed neither understanding nor 
diligence, and the penalty was paid in the disturbances 
on the Red River in 1870 and on the Saskatchewan in 
1885. 

When the Dominion took over from the Hudson's 
Bay Company the vast Western empire which had long 
been held as a hunting-preserve, Canadians hastened to 
enter the promised land. Local administrations were 
set up, roads and railways built, lands surveyed, home- 
stead policies adopted. It was recognized that the land 
was not wholly masterless. Tens of thousands of Indi- 
ans, Cree and Blackfoot, Piegan and Sarcee, Chipe- 
wyan and Ojibway, still roamed the plains. Treaties 
were made to extinguish the Indian title, granting the 
Indians in return ample reserves and moderate annui- 
ties. So far, so good, but equal care was not taken to 
help the half-breed adjust himself to the new conditions. 
The half-breed descendants of the French or Scotch or 
more rarely English hunters and traders of early days 
and the Indian women with whom they mated, formed 
communities distinct alike from Indian and from white. 
They manned the canoes, drove the Red River carts, 
hunted the buffalo, and gathered the furs for company 
and private trader, and in more ways than one linked 
the peoples from which they were sprung. A simple 
people, of few needs, reckless and light-hearted, they 
were none too well prepared for the new way of life that 

285 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

came with the opening of the West to settlement. It 
was not merely new governors and irksome laws, but a 
change in the economic basis of the community that 
came upon them ; reckless hunting and the activities of 
American traders brought the endless herds of buffalo 
to an end, and the railway brought a flood of settlers 
into the plains. The old free days were over. 

For such a people the shift from a nomadic hunting 
life to a settled agricultural one would have involved 
difficulties at best. The bungling and dilatoriness of 
the new governing authority doubled the difficulty. On 
the Red River the failure of the Canadian government 
to realize that the wilderness they were taking over held 
thousands of men with hopes and fears and pride of 
their own, men who were not content to be transferred 
to newcomers like herds of cattle, led to resistance which 
the Canadian government in which at the time no 
shred of legal right to the Red River territory was 
vested humorously termed "a rebellion." The gov- 
ernment mended its ways, conceded the community im- 
mediate self-government, and gave liberal land grants 
to the old settlers; only the echoes of Riel's fatal blunder 
in the execution of Scott disturbed the further develop- 
ment of the Red River country. But the transition was 
not yet completed. Thousands of half-breeds, irked by 
the closer settlement or fleeced of their land-scrip by the 
greed of speculators and their own improvidence, had 
drifted away, some south of the border, but the greater 
number further west, settling along the far-winding 
banks of the Saskatchewan. Even here, as for the 

286 



RAIL AND KIEL 

Boers in earlier days trekking further and further from 
the seats of authority, isolation did not last long; gov- 
ernment land-agents and surveyors, mounted police and 
magistrates, came north -as the advance guard of the 
great wave of settlement that was expected with the 
completion of the Canadian Pacific. 

For a second time the problem of adjustment arose 
and for a second time it was bungled. The half-breeds 
on the Saskatchewan sought certain privileges. They 
asked for patents for the lands on which they had squat- 
ted before the surveyor came. They asked that the 
river-lot system of surveying shduld be adopted in their 
settlements rather than the rectangular; they had staked 
out their land according to the custom in force on the 
Red River, and on the St. Lawrence and the Richelieu 
for centuries before, in long narrow strips, twenty or 
forty chains wide and a few miles deep, sometimes with 
pasture-land running two miles further back, a system 
which strung all the households close together along the 
sociable river street ; and now the government's survey- 
ors were applying the American system of rectangular 
sections and townships, perfectly logical and geometri- 
cally exact, but taking no heed of the lie of the country, 
or the social instincts of the settlers. They demanded, 
also, that every half-breed should be granted scrip for a 
quarter-section of land or thereabouts, in extinguish- 
ment of the Indian title ; in Manitoba it had been agreed 
that the half-breeds, while entitled, like white men, to 
earn a homestead by fulfilling settlement duties, should, 
in virtue of their Indian blood, receive a free grant of a 

287 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

few acres of land in the many-million-acred country to 
which their ancestors had the claim of first occupation. 
The requests were just and reasonable. There was 
no valid ground for refusal or delay in granting 
patents. The river-lot method of survey, while not 
without its drawbacks, in itself and as a part of a wide 
system, had a clear balan'ce of convenience in its favour. 
The demand for scrip was more controversial. It 
might be held illogical, as the government contended, 
for the half-breeds to claim both the white man's home- 
stead and the Indian's free grant, but the homestead 
was given on fulfilling settlement duties and the free 
grant on claims of blood; the Manitoba precedent 
could not be set aside, and in any case the area involved 
was but a speck on the map in comparison with the vast 
domains available and out of which tens of millions of 
acres were being carved for railway-builders and coloni- 
zation companies. It might be urged that the granting 
of scrip would prove of no lasting benefit either to the 
half-breed or to the country; in Manitoba the half- 
breeds, like the Canadian volunteers of 1870 to whom 
similar grants had been made, had for the most part 
sold their claims for a few dollars or gallons of whiskey 
to speculators who thereupon held choice lands out of 
use and forced real settlers to go far from town and rail- 
way. There was no doubt, further, that speculators in 
the Saskatchewan country, and particularly in Prince 
Albert, were egging the half-breeds on, with very defi- 
nite designs upon their scrip. Yet this did not lessen 
the force of the half-breeds' claim, and, had the govern- 

288 



RAIL AND KIEL 

ment willed, ways could have been found to prevent the 
alienation of the land for a time. 

Beginning in the last years of the Mackenzie regime, 
and increasing in urgency with the imminence of the 
rush of settlers from the East, the half-breeds pressed 
their claims. Petition after petition was sent to 
Ottawa; money was scraped together to send a deputa- 
tion to the same far tribune; local officials and even the 
North- West Council, a nominated body of little more 
than advisory powers, urged compliance. Sometimes a 
little was done; the Scotch half-breeds at Prince Albert 
were given their river-lot surveys, but this only empha- 
sized still more the grievance of the French half-breeds 
at St. Laurent. Often much was promised, only to be 
forgotten. Time and again the authorities undertook 
to give the matter their most careful consideration. 
Then the petitions were pigeonholed and the Metis 
waited in vain. The petitioners were few and far 
away; they had no votes, no representation in parlia- 
ment. From 1878 to 1883 the Ministry of the Inte- 
rior, to which was confided the oversight of the West- 
ern territories, was in the hands of Sir John Macdon- 
ald, never interested in the details of administration, 
trustful, as his nickname of "Old To-morrow" indi- 
cated, in the healing power of procrastination, and so 
little interested in the West that until 1886 he never set 
foot in the domain which had so long been under his 
charge. From 1883 to 1885 the ministry fell to Sir 
David Macpherson, an easy-going retired capitalist, 
more interested in the dignity than the duties of his 

289 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

post. And while Ottawa slumbered, the Metis watched 
the rising of the tide of settlement and nursed their 
grievances. 

The prairie was dry as tinder, but had not fate sent 
the spark the blaze might never have come. It was 
not the first time nor the last that ministers had lacked 
energy and sympathetic vision. Without the coming of 
Louis Riel, they and the country with them might 
have escaped the penalty. But unfortunately Riel had 
come. 

Louis Riel was born in the Red River country in 
October, 1844. He had little Indian blood in his veins, 
but that little was enough to make him at home with 
his half-breed kindred. His father, Jean-Louis Riel, 
had come from Berthier in Quebec a few years before ; 
on his father's side, Jean-Louis traced his descent 
through four generations of Canadian-born, back to a 
Reilly from Ireland and back of that again to a Reilson 
from Scandinavia; his mother Louis Riel's grand- 
mother was a Montagnais Indian. Jean-Louis mar- 
ried Julie Lagimodiere, the daughter of the first white 
woman to settle in the West; the mother, Marie Anne 
Gaboury, had come from the Three Rivers country in 
1807 with her coureur-de-bois husband, Jean-Baptiste 
Lagimodiere, narrowly escaping death by storm on the 
lakes and death by poison at the hands of a squaw with 
whom Jean-Baptiste had lived before going east, and 
had survived countless perils and hardships through a 
life of nearly a hundred years. Jean-Louis, married 
to the daughter Julie, in turn hunter, student for the 

290 



RAIL AND KIEL 

priesthood, farmer and miller, became a leading figure 
in the Red River community and led the Metis in 1849 
in resisting and smashing the claim of the Hudson's Bay 
Company to a monopoly of the trade in furs. 

Louis Riel the younger early showed a precocious 
talent which drew the attention of Mgr. Tache. On 
his suggestion, a wealthy lady of Terrebonne, Quebec, 
Mme. Masson, had him sent to the College of Montreal 
in 1858, with a view to training for the priesthood. 
Riel's training ended abruptly in 1864. His father had 
died, leaving him head of a family of nine. More im- 
portant, he had developed erratic traits which convinced 
Mgr. Tache of his unfitness for the service of the Church, 
dreaming wild dreams of a religious mission he was 
destined to perform, demanding from Montreal ac- 
quaintainces $10,000 to carry out his crusade, urging 
his feeble-minded old mother to sell her effects to aid 
him, and then, after she had journeyed four hundred 
miles by ox-cart to meet him, writing her that a new 
mission required him to remain in Montreal. After 
three years' aimless drifting in Montreal and the 
Western States, this "spoiled priest" or stickit minister 
came back to his father's farm at St. Vital. 

The unrest prevalent in the settlement over the com- 
ing transfer of control from the Hudson's Bay Com- 
pany to Canada, and the high-handed attitude of some 
of the Canadian party in Red River gave Riel his oppor- 
tunity. His own faith in his destiny, the ascendancy 
which his half -learning, his mystic faith, his aggressive 
audacity, and his knowledge of Metis ways gave him 

291 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

over his fellows, soon made him dominant in the com- 
munity. The claims he championed were reasonable in 
the main, and Riel would have held a place as one of the 
minor prophets of liberty in Canada had it not been for 
the execution of Scott. Resistance always irritated and 
inflamed him and disturbed the precarious balance of 
his mind; like General Dyer of Amritsar, he could not 
endure the thought of being despised and laughed at for 
his weakness, and determined to teach a lesson to the 
minority which had challenged his control. It fell to 
Thomas Scott to play the victim. Scott, an Ontario 
pioneer, had served, none too peaceably, in a Dominion 
surveyor's party, had joined in the attempt of the Por- 
tage la Prairie settlers to overthrow Riel, and, when it 
failed, had been confined with his fellows in cold and 
crowded quarters in Fort Garry. A taunting word 
singled him out for disfavour, and after a farcical trial, 
without proof of the flimsy allegations brought against 
him, without defence, Scott was condemned for treason 
to the provisional government and next day, in spite of 
protest and intercession, met death at the hands of a 
firing-squad. 

Scott was executed on March 4, 1870. On February 
24, 1875, Riel was declared an outlaw. Through the 
intervening years Riel was the centre of a political 
storm. He had fled from Fort Garry a quarter-hour 
before Wolseley's troops arrived in August, 1870, 
sought refuge for a year south of the border, placed his 
Metis followers at Governor Archibald's disposal to 
fight the Fenian raid of 1871, accepted Macdonald's 

292 



RAIL AND RIEL 

direct and indirect bribes of $4,000 to leave the country 
till the elections of 1872 were over, escaped arrest a year 
later under a warrant for the murder of Scott, secured 
election unopposed to the House of Commons in 1874, 
and even appeared for an audacious moment in the 
House at Ottawa. Then came the general amnesty, 
with the provision that the pardon was to extend to Riel 
and Lepine only after five years' banishment. 

Kiel's banishment was brief. He spent a short 
period in the United States, undergoing confinement for 
a part of this time in a private asylum maintained by 
Major Edmond Mallet in Washington. But he was 
soon back in Canada, where the sympathy of the people 
of Quebec and the willingness of the Ottawa authorities 
to let slumbering dogs lie assured him safety. For three 
years his presence in the province was an open secret. 
Early in 1876 he entered a Montreal church and noisily 
interrupted mass, insisting that as he was superior to 
any of the dignitaries present he should be allowed to 
conduct the service. He was arrested and on the certif- 
icate of two doctors immured in Longue Pointe asylum, 
near Montreal, under the name of Louis David. His 
outbursts of violence proved too much for the sisters 
who conducted the asylum, and under the name of La- 
Rochelle, he was transferred to Beauport asylum, near 
Quebec. From these headquarters, during his lucid in- 
tervals, he sallied forth from time to time, travelling by 
the underground route from parish to parish. 

It was during this period that Mr. Laurier had his 
first and last interview with Louis Riel. One Sunday 

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LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

he was invited by the cure of a neighbouring village to 
come over for dinner, to meet an interesting guest. Mr. 
Laurier was surprised on entering the study to find him- 
self face to face with the man whom he had helped to 
vote into temporary exile. He was much impressed by 
the vigour and daimonic personality of the Metis leader, 
and found him surprisingly fluent and, on the whole, 
well informed, on American and European politics. 
When, however, religion was touched upon, Kiel's deep- 
set eyes lit up, and he launched into an excited and 
jumbled harangue, boasting vaguely of the great mis- 
sion for the further revelation of God's will which a 
heavenly vision had urged him to undertake. From 
that day Laurier never had any question as to Kiel's 
insanity, though he had as yet no surmise of the lengths 
to which this fatal twist was once more to drive him in the 
West. 

Kiel was discharged from Beauport in January, 1878. 
He returned to the United States, carried himself so 
strangely on the streets of Washington that he was 
taken in charge by the police, spent some months in Dr. 
Mallet's sanatorium, went west to Minnesota, and 
thence to a Metis colony at Sun River, Montana, where 
he opened a school, became the leader of the community, 
stirred up his fellows to resist paying customs duty, 
took it upon himself to hold an unauthorized poll during 
a local election, and in consequence found himself for a 
brief sojourn within the walls of Fort B.enton. Later 
he became an American citizen, married a Metis woman 
with much Cree blood, and settled down as a teacher in 

294 



RAIL AND RIEL 

a little industrial school maintained by a Jesuit father 
at St. Peter's Mission, in Montana. In the summer 
of 1883 he paid a visit to Red River, where he met his 
cousin and former co-worker, Napoleon Nault, a Metis 
trader, and possibly laid the lines for the invitation to 
return to Canada. A little later he seems to have made 
a visit to Quebec to consult eminent theologians as to 
his mission, and to have received little comfort. 

It was to this strangely equipped leader that the 
half-breeds of the Saskatchewan turned when their 
grievances found no redress. Early in the summer of 
1884 James Isbester, Moise Ouellette, Michel Dumas, 
and Gabriel Dumont journeyed the seven hundred 
miles to Montana, and begged Riel to return to their 
aid. After some demur, he agreed, observing that he 
had claims of his own to press against the government. 
Making his headquarters at Batoche, on the South 
Saskatchewan, Riel began his agitation, quietly, and 
received much support not merely from the French and 
English half-breeds, but from English settlers who 
were feeling the pinch of drought and frost, of 
railway monopoly and tariff exactions, and welcomed 
any expression of discontent that might force Ottawa 
to deal with the problems of the West. But as winter 
came on, Riel began to talk wildly, to hold meetings 
in secret, and to flout the authority of the priests with 
whom he had at first been in close harmony. At the 
same time he threw out hints, which did not reach those 
in authority, that if the government would again pay 
him a sum to leave the country, say $100,000, or $35,000 

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LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

or perhaps only $10,000 the half-breed question could be 
settled: "I am the half-breed question." 

The government was repeatedly informed of the 
storm that was brewing; government officials, local 
newspapers, missionaries, settlers, urged considera- 
tion. l But Ottawa could not be roused from its leth- 
argy. In 1883 Blake moved for papers on the half- 
breeds' grievances, but none were brought down for 
two years; in 1884 Cameron called for a committee of 
investigation, but the reply was given that there was 
nothing to investigate. True, the time-honoured 
method of silencing agitation by giving office to the 
agitators was adopted: Louis Schmidt, secretary of the 
committee which had invited Riel, was made an assist- 
ant land-agent, and of the delegates, Isbester was 
offered and Dumas accepted a post as Indian farm in- 
structor, while Gabriel Dumont received a ferry license ; 
it was not surprising that Riel thought his silence worth 
at least ten thousand. In January, 1885, further, 
authority was taken to appoint a commission to enumer- 

i Charles Mair of Prince Albert, an Ontario pioneer who had been a 
vigorous supporter of the Canada party in Red River in 1869, made 
four pilgrimages to Ottawa to seek to rouse the government to action. 
Failing, in April, 1884, to receive a hearing, he returned to Prince Al- 
bert and brought his family back to Ontario to escape the threatened ris- 
ing; a final appeal in December was equally futile. Of the April attempt 
Lieut.-Col. George T. Denison has written: "When he returned to 
Toronto from Ottawa he told me positively that there would be a rebel- 
lion, that the officials were absolutely indifferent and immovable, and I 
could not help laughing at the picture he gave me of Sir David Mac- 
pherson, a very large, handsome, erect man of six feet four inches, 
getting up, leaving his room, and walking away down the corridor, while 
Mair, a short stout man, had almost to run alongside of him, as he 
made his final appeal to preserve the peace and prevent bloodshed." 
"Soldiering in Canada," p. 263. 

296 



RAIL AND KIEL 

ate the half-breeds, but the government still insisted that 
the claim to the same treatment accorded the Manitoba 
half-breeds could not be conceded; in February ap- 
proval was telegraphed of a report on half-breed claims 
at St. Laurent, made months before. Steps were 
taken to strengthen the North- West Mounted Police 
and to ascertain the possibility of carrying troops from 
eastern Canada over the uncompleted Canadian Pacific 
tracks in case of an outbreak, but to take effective and 
comprehensive action to avert the outbreak was beyond 
Ottawa's capacity or its will. On the very day that 
Duck Lake was fought, Macdonald reiterated his op- 
position to the Metis demand for scrip. Ten days 
later the policy was reversed, and instructions were 
given to issue the scrip so long denied. But a concession 
at that late date could only condemn the previous re- 
fusal; it could not avert the consequences. 

In March, 1885, the storm broke. Irritated by the 
government's continued neglect and roused to action 
by Kiel's hypnotic eloquence, the half-breeds of St. 
Laurent drifted into rebellion. A rumour spread by 
Lawrence Clark, a former Hudson's Bay Chief Factor, 
of the approach of a force of police to arrest Riel and his 
followers made the hesitating throw in their lot with the 
reckless. A provisional government was established 
with Riel as president and Gabriel Dumont as mili- 
tary chief. The rebels seized stores and occupied the 
government post at Duck Lake; a party of police and 
volunteers sent out under Major Crozier to protect the 
post encountered a half-breed force and in the fight 

297 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

that followed, in which the police seem to have fired the 
first shot, twelve of Crozier's men, including a nephew 
of Edward Blake, were killed and the rest forced to re- 
treat. The news of the Duck Lake disaster called all 
Canada to arms. Two thousand troops were raised in 
the West, and over three thousand, including small ar- 
tillery units from the permanent corps, were rushed 
from the East, the gaps in the Canadian Pacific being 
covered by marching or in sleighs along rough tote- 
roads. 

There were three centres of disturbance : Batoche, on 
the South Saskatchewan, where five hundred half- 
breeds rallied round Kiel and Dumont; Battleford, on 
the North Saskatchewan, where an Indian chief, 
Poundmaker, responded to the Metis call, and the Fort 
Pitt country, on the same river, between Edmonton 
and Battleford, where another chief, Big Bear, was 
gathering his braves. The total number of half-breeds 
and Indians in the field never greatly exceeded a thou- 
sand, but there were tens of thousands of Indians on 
the plains with whom fighting was a deep-rooted habit, 
and Metis settlements along the river in more or less 
sympathy with their brothers of St. Laurent. The 
Canadian Pacific ran parallel to these centres and about 
two hundred miles south. From this railway base, three 
columns were thrown north. Their rapid advance pre- 
vented the insurrection from becoming general, but it 
was no easy task to suppress the forces already in the 
field. Dumont, practised in buffalo-hunting, a born 
leader of men, with an excellent eye for country, was 

298 



RAIL AND KIEL 

fully a match for his antagonists in capacity, but num- 
bers, artillery, and the dash and courage of the Cana- 
dian volunteers broke down all resistance. After an 
indecisive engagement at Fish Creek in April, Batoche 
was carried by storm on May 12. Further west, Battle- 
ford and Edmonton had been relieved, but isolated 
settlers had been forced to flee in terror or had been 
taken captive by looting Indian bands; at Frog Lake, 
near Fort Pitt, five men, including two Catholic priests, 
had been murdered by members of Big Bear's tribe. 
After the fall of Batoche, the Indian movement col- 
lapsed, and by June all was quiet again on the Sas- 
katchewan. 

Kiel was the prophet rather than the captain of the 
movement. His assurance drove the Metis into action, 
but once the conflict had begun, Dumont took the lead. 
Charges of personal cowardice were in fact made 
against Kiel later, but were disproved by the burden of 
the evidence. He was a man of deeply religious in- 
stincts, and in the first weeks of his visit he had been on 
good terms with the Catholic missionaries in the North, 
one of whom, Father Andre, had been instrumental in 
securing his return from Montana. But during the 
winter their suspicion of his revolutionary bias and his 
growing heterodoxy brought a cooling, and the priests, 
meeting in council, agreed that he could not be allowed 
to continue his religious duties. Once the die was cast, 
Biel devoted himself as much to building up a new 
church suited to the Metis needs as to defending the 
new state. He induced the great majority of his fol- 

299 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

lowers to renounce allegiance to the Roman Catholic 
Church ff La vieille romaine est cassee, le pape est 
tombe" danced and shouted on the altar steps in the 
church of Saint Antoine, proclaimed himself a prophet 
sent to achieve a reformation long overdue, and denied 
the divinity of Jesus and the doctrine of the real pres- 
ence; how could Jesus, who was six and a half feet 
tall, be in a little wafer? His council or exovidat he 
insisted that they were merely "of the flock," assuming 
no authority but voicing the people's will took their 
ecclesiastical duties seriously. Alternating with resolu- 
tions as to the disposition and duties of their little force, 
motions to assign a gun to Pierre, a horse to Maxime, 
or a cow to Napoleon, or decisions to send a scout to 
Qu'Appelle or letters to a Cree chief, the papers of the 
council reveal many decisions on religious matters. 
Now it is merely a resolution to take a church to serve 



as school or an exhortation to Father Vegreville or to 
Father Fourmond to hold himself neutral; now it is 
a declaration that "the Exovidat of the French-Cana- 
dian Metis believes firmly that hell will not last forever, 
that the doctrine of everlasting future punishment is 
contrary to Divine Mercy as well as to the charity of 
our Saviour Jesus Christ," or a resolution "that the 
Lord's Day be put back to the seventh day of the week," 
carried with nine ayes and three nays. Riel had the 
honour, unique since time began, of being proclaimed 
prophet by order in council: "Moved by M. Boucher, 
seconded by M. Tourond, That the Canadian half-breed 
Exovidat acknowledges Louis 'David' Riel as a prophet 

300 



RAIL AND RIEL 

in the service of Jesus Christ ... as a prophet, 
the humble imitator in many things of St. John the 
Baptist," carried by nine ayes, M. Ouellette not voting. 
Or again, after a controversy with Father Vegreville, 
it is moved "that if God so wills, if He has so decided in 
His eternal designs, we desire nothing better than to be 
His priests and to constitute, if such is His desire and 
His holy will, the new religious ministry of Jesus Christ; 
and we at once establish the living Catholic Apostolic 
and vital church of the new world." A fragment from 
the minutes of March 25 records that it was "proposed 
by M. Boucher, seconded by M. Pierre Henry, that the 
Commandments of God be the laws of the provisional 
government, that we recognize the right of Mr. Louis 
'David' Riel to direct the priests; that the Archbishop 
Ignace Bourget be recognized from this day as the Pope 
of the new world, and the members of the Council . . . ' 
As became a prophet, Riel saw visions and heard voices, 
and each morning recounted what he had seen and 
heard. * 

i Kiel's diary presents an extraordinary jumble of acuteness and of 
rambling nonsense: ". . . The Spirit of God said to me, 'The enemy has 
gone to Prince Albert.* I prayed saying, 'Deign to make me know who 
is that enemy.' He answered, 'Charlie Larence.' The Spirit of God has 
shown me the place where I should be wounded, the highest joint of the 
ring finger. He pointed out to me which joint it was on his own finger. 
. . ." "Do you know some one called Charlie Larence? He wants to 
drink five gallons in the name of the movement. The Spirit of God has 
made me understand that we must bind the prisoners. I have seen Gabriel 
Dumont; he was afflicted, ashamed; he did not look at me, he looked at 
his empty table. But Gabriel Dumont is blessed, his faith will not totter. 
He is fired by the grace of God. . . . My ideas are just, well weighed, well 
defined; mourning is not in my thoughts. My ideas are level with my gun; 
my gun is standing. It is the invisible power of God which keeps my 
gun erect. Oh, my God, give me grace to establish the day of your rest, 
to bring back in honour the Sabbath day as it was fixed by the Holy Spirit 

301 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

After the storming of Batoche, Dumont made good 
his escape to the United States. To Riel General Mid- 
dleton sent a message stating that he was ready to re- 
ceive him and his council and to protect him until their 
case had been decided upon by the government; three 
days after the fight, scouts came upon Riel, who sur- 
rendered. 

The rapid collapse of the insurrection brought a 
surge of relief over all Canada, apprehensive, with the 
memory of Custer and Sitting Bull still fresh, of the 
horrors of an Indian rising. With relief there came, 
particularly from Ontario, a stern demand for the 
punishment of the guilty leaders. Riel was brought 
to trial at Regina before a stipendiary magistrate and 
an English-speaking jury of six men. The Crown 
was represented by Christopher Robinson, B. B. Osier, 
R. W. Burbidge, D. L. Scott, and T. C. Casgrain; 
and the prisoner by F. X. Lemieux, Charles Fitzpat- 
rick, J. N. Greenshields, and T. C. Johnston. The 
Crown urged Riel's responsibility for the outbreak 
and the loss of life that had followed, his attempt to 
incite the Indians to war, his offers to sell out his com- 
rades. Counsel for Riel took exception to the juris- 
diction of the court, demanded, in vain, opportunity to 
consult the papers of Riel seized at Batoche, and rested 
their case mainly on the plea of insanity, a plea 

in the person of Moses, your servant." . . . "While I was praying, the 
Spirit of God showed me, in the south branch, a small vessel in which there 
were two or three men, one of whom had a red tongue. ... I have seen 
the giant. He comes. He is hideous. He is Goliath. ... He loses his 
own body and all his people. There is left to him nothing but the head. 
He is not willing to humble himself. He has his head cut off." 

302 



RAIL AND RIEL 

which Riel vigorously repudiated in his own address to 
the jury. The jury brought in a verdict of guiltfy, 
with a recommendation to mercy; the magistrate sen- 
tenced Riel to be hanged on September 18. The 
Court of Queen's Bench in Manitoba confirmed the 
jurisdiction of the court, and the Judicial Committee of 
the Privy Council, on petition, declined leave to appeal. 
After the cabinet had come to its decision to let the 
sentence stand, a commission of three doctors, all in the 
government's employ and none specialists in mental 
diseases, was sent to investigate Kiel's sanity; they re- 
ported in substance that he was subject to delusions on 
political and religious subjects, but that they consid- 
ered him responsible for his actions. After three re- 
prieves, Riel, who had recanted his religious heresies 
and faced his end with calm courage, was hanged in the 
yard of the mounted-police barracks, November 16. 
Eighteen of his half-breed followers were sentenced to 
terms of imprisonment of from one to seven years, 
while later in November eight of the Indians convicted 
of the murders at Frog Lake and elsewhere, Wander- 
ing Spirit, Little Bear, Iron Body, Ikta, Bad Arrow, 
Round the Sky, Man without Blood and Miserable 
Man, paid the penalty on the gallows. 

Riel was dead, but for many a month his ghost walked 
the stage of Canadian politics. Ontario had called 
for punishment, Quebec for pardon, and passion 
mounted on both sides until it threatened to break 
Confederation into fragments. 

Parliament was early called upon to face the issue, 

303 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

While the rebellion was in progress, there was unani- 
mous backing of the government in its suppression. 
Once it had collapsed and Kiel lay in the Regina gaol, 
Blake, in the beginning of July, moved a vote of cen- 
sure on the government for the "grave neglect, delay, 
and mismanagement" which had marked its handling 
of North- West affairs. In a long and powerful speech, 
Blake analyzed and marshalled the evidence gleaned 
from the papers which had tardily been submitted to 
the House, and framed an overwhelming indictment 
against the administration. Macdonald replied. He 
accused Blake of preparing a brief for Kiel, denied 
that the grievances of the Metis were serious, charged 
the Opposition with neglect in the years between 1873 
and 1878, and laid the blame on white speculators in 
Prince Albert. He did not even yet believe that the 
grant of scrip was just or expedient; he had yielded 
for the sake of peace: "Well, for God's sake let them 
have the scrip; they will either drink it or waste it or 
sell it, but let us have peace." 

Laurier rose to second Blake's resolution of censure. 
He dealt first with Macdonald's contention that the 
insurgents had no grievances but were simply the 
dupes of Riel. In a passage characteristic of his 
measured eloquence and of his habit of illuminating 
the present by light from the past, he declared: 

I can illustrate what I am now saying, that no man, how- 
ever powerful, can exercise such influence as is attributed to 
Louis Riel, by a page from our own history. Few men have 
there been anywhere who have wielded greater sway over their 

304 



RAIL AND RIEL 

fellow-countrymen than did Mr. Papineau at a certain time 
in the history of Lower Canada, and no man ever lived who 
had been more profusely endowed by nature to be the idol 
of a nation. A man of commanding presence, of majestic 
countenance, of impassioned eloquence, of unblemished char- 
acter, of pure, disinterested patriotism, for years and years 
he held over the hearts of his 1 fellow-countrymen almost un- 
bounded sway, and, even to this day, the mention of his name 
will arouse throughout the length and breadth of Lower Can- 
ada a thrill of enthusiasm in the breasts of all, men or women, 
old or young. What was the secret of that great power he 
held at one time? Was it simply his eloquence, his command- 
ing intellect, or even his pure patriotism? No doubt, they 
all contributed; but the main cause of his authority over 
his fellow-countrymen was this, that, at that time, his fellow- 
countrymen were an oppressed race, and he was the champion 
of their cause. But when the day of relief came, the influence 
of Mr. Papineau, however great it might have been and how- 
ever great it still remained, ceased to be paramount. When 
eventually the Union Act was carried, Papineau violently as- 
saulted it, showed all its defects, deficiencies and dangers, and 
yet he could not raise his followers and the people to agitate 
for the repeal of that act. What was the reason? The 
conditions were no more the same. Imperfect as was the 
Union Act, it still gave a measure of freedom and justice to 
the people, and men who at the mere sound of Mr. Papineau's 
voice would have gladly courted death on battle-field or scaf- 
fold, then stood silent and unresponsive, though he asked them 
nothing more than a constitutional agitation for a repeal of 
the Union Act. Conditions were no more the same; tyranny 
and oppression had made rebels of the people of Lower Canada, 
while justice and freedom made them true and loyal subjects, 
which they have been ever since. And now to tell us that 
Louis Kiel, simply by his influence, could bring these men from 
peace to war; to tell us that they had no grievances; to tell 
us that they were brought into a state of rebellion either 
through pure malice or through imbecile adherence to an ad- 

305 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

venturer, is an insult to the intelligence of the people at large 
and an unjust aspersion on the people of the Saskatchewan. 
The honourable gentleman tells us' that the people of the 
Saskatchewan River have no wrongs ; this is but a continua- 
tion of the system which has been followed all along with regard 
to this people. They have been denied their just rights, and 
now they are slandered by the same men whose unjust course 
towards them drove them to the unfortunate proceedings they 
have adopted since. This I do charge upon the government; 
that they have for years and years ignored the just claims 
of the half-breeds of the Saskatchewan, that for years and 
years these people have been petitioning the government and 
always in vain. I say they have been treated by this govern- 
ment with an indifference amounting to undisguised contempt, 
that they have been goaded into the unfortunate course they 
have adopted, and if this rebellion be a crime, I say the respon- 
sibility for that crime weighs as much upon the men who, by 
their conduct, have caused the rebellion, as upon those who 
engaged in it. 

The government, he continued, was doubly open to 
censure, since the troubles of 1869 had given it warning 
of the danger of neglect. If now millions of dol- 
lars had been expended and some of the most precious 
blood of Canada shed, the reason was the ostrich policy 
of the government in denying the existence of griev- 
ances. In consenting after the rebellion had broken 
out to grant the half-breeds their scrip, the govern- 
ment had condemned itself. Petitions, assemblies, 
delegations, even the sending for Riel, had not stirred 
the government out of its lethargy, but the bullets of 
Duck Lake had brought at once what six years 
of prayers could not bring: "Justice loses most of its 
value when it is tardily and grudgingly conceded. 

306 



RAIL AND RIEL 

Even last night the honourable gentleman would not 
say that in so doing ... he recognized their rights; he 
simply said that he would do it and did it for the sake 
of peace. For the sake of peace, when we were in the 
midst of war! for the sake of peace, when insurgents 
were in the field and blood had been shed!" The 
government was seeking to shelter itself behind the 
anger against Riel. It would not do to rouse preju- 
dices in this matter: there were prejudices in this 
country of many kinds : 

We are not yet so built up a nation as to forget our respec- 
tive origins, and I say frankly that the people of my own 
province, who have a community of origin with the insurgents, 
sympathize with them, just as the sympathies of the people 
of Ontario who are of a different origin would go altogether 
in the other direction. I am of French origin, and I confess 
that if I were to act only from the blood that runs in my 
veins, it would carry me strongly in favour of these people, 
but above all I claim to be in favour of what is just and right 
and fair. . . . Let justice be done and let the consequences 
fall upon the guilty ones, whether on the head of Louis Riel 
or on the shoulders of the government. . . . There is in con- 
nection with this matter another point which I have not heard 
referred to, but which seems to be in the minds of a good 
many people. It is not expressed, but I think the feeling 
permeates the very atmosphere, not only of this House, but 
of the whole of this country. I have not heard it stated, but 
it is in the minds of many that if these men have rebelled, 
it is because they are, to a certain extent, of French origin. 
The First Minister stated yesterday that Gabriel Dumont 
and his friends are and always were rebels. It is not to my 
knowledge that Dumont or any one of those who took up arms 
on the Saskatchewan any more than on the Red River ever 
had the thought of rebelling against the authority of Her 

307 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

Majesty. It was not against Her Majesty the Queen; they 
rebelled against the tyranny of the Canadian government. . . . 
This I say, and I say it coming from a province where less 
than fifty years ago every man of the race to which I belong 
was a rebel and where to-day every man of that race is a 
true and loyal subject, as' true and loyal as any that breathes 
I say give them justice, give them freedom, give them their 
rights, treat them as for the last forty years you have treated 
the people of Lower Canada, and by and by throughout those 
territories you will have contentment, peace and harmony, 
where to-day discord, hatred and war are ruining the land. 

The resolution of censure was defeated on a party 
vote, but that did not check the storm of discussion be- 
yond the walls of parliament. After the trial and 
condemnation of Kiel, the question shifted from the 
responsibility of the government to the advisability of 
pardon for the rebel leader. It was a question that 
stirred sectional and party animosity to the depths, 
though there was by no means a united or a consistent 
voice in either section or either party. 

From Ontario the first insistent cry had been for 
punishment. Kiel was twice guilty of the black crime 
of treason. He had attempted to bring on the horrors 
of an Indian rising. He had occasioned the death of 
scores of Canadian men and women. No plea could 
lessen the enormity of that offence. The grievances of 
the Metis could not excuse rebellion. And in the 
minds of many, more serious even than the lives lost in 
battle was the unforgivable, cold-blooded murder of 
Thomas Scott. Yet as the summer passed, the voice 
of clemency began to be heard, distorted though it was 

308 



RAIL AND RIEL 

by partisan manoeuvring. The Toronto "Mail," the 
leading government organ in Ontario, which admitted 
after Blake's July speech that the government had 
been guilty of "gross and inexcusable negligence," ad- 
mitted to its columns forceful pleas for pardon on the 
ground of national policy and of Kiel's insanity; edi- 
torially, it prepared opinion for either decision on the 
cabinet's part. The Toronto "Globe" while insisting 
that the government was equally guilty, had at first 
joined in the demand for punishment. "No one who 
has read the evidence," it declared in August, "can 
doubt that Kiel richly deserves death." But as the 
weeks went on, the cooling of passion and the fuller 
recognition of extenuating circumstances brought a 
growing leaning toward amnesty, even if the old Adam 
of partisanship could not resist the temptation at times 
to interpret the assumed leaning of the government in 
the same direction as a weak concession to the French 
Bleus who were holding the pistol to Sir John's ear. 
Only in the Loyal Orange lodges was there no weaken- 
ing; one brother served notice that "if the government 
allows Rome to step in and reprieve this arch-traitor, 
the Conservative party can no longer count on our 
services," and the "Orange Sentinel" in October insist- 
ed that "the blood of Thomas Scott yet cries aloud for 
justice." 

In Quebec, while the rebellion had been denounced, 
there was deep sympathy with the Metis claims, and a 
growing sympathy with the rebel leader. Public sub- 
scriptions provided for Kiel's defence at the trial, and 

309 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

after the sentence, press and platform demands for his 
pardon grew more insistent. The government was at 
least as guilty as Kiel; his insanity was notorious, gen- 
uine ; no civilized people now put to death the leader of 
an unsuccessful revolt. And in any case, sane or 
insane, fight or wrong, Kiel and the people he had 
championed were kinsmen, children of the Quebec that 
had sent its daring pioneers to the prairies and the 
rivers of the West long years before. It was in vain 
that every priest on the Saskatchewan wrote publicly 
and privately denouncing Riel as the arch-enemy of 
the Church, anti-Christ, the hand behind the massacre 
of Father Marchand and Father Fafard at Frog 
Lake. It was in vain that the extravagant laudation 
of Riel was attacked as a slur on the real heroes of 
French Canada, daring leaders like Cartier and Cham- 
plain, Maisonneuve and Dollard, Montcalm and Levis, 
de Salaberry and Chenier, sainted apostles like Laval 
and Brebeuf, Marguerite Bourgeoys, and Jeanne 
Mance. The movement grew. There was much that 
was deplorable in the Quebec as in the Ontario agita- 
tion, much of ignorance and fanaticism and blind ra- 
cial jealousy, much pandering by politicians to local 
passion, but just as the Ontario demand had as one of 
its main roots a growing national sense, a lofty de- 
termination to make Canada one and make it strong, 
so the Quebec campaign had its nobler side, its sym- 
pathy with the poor and dispossessed, its readiness to 
respond to the cry of kinsmen in distress. Kiel's 
grave faults were no more to the point than the dis- 

310 



RAIL AND KIEL 

torted limbs or wayward habits of a son in the eyes of 
his mother. 

So vital a movement could not but raise questions of 
party attitude. Rouge newspapers like "La Patrie" 
joined with Castor journals like "L'Etendard" to 
threaten the government with vengeance if it sacrificed 
Kiel to Orange hatred. But it was not merely from 
the Opposition that these demands came. The con- 
troversy gave a new angle and a new channel to the jeal- 
ousy and rivalry which marked the relations of the 
federal Bleu leaders. Between elections, Langevin, a 
supple and experienced tactician, though not a man of 
force, Chapleau, the most moving platform orator of his 
day, save perhaps the more tempestuous Mercier, and 
Caron, a skilful manager of election campaigns, fought 
a bitter and unrelenting triangular contest for leader- 
ship of the Quebec contingent in the Conservative 
party. The fact that Chapleau and his chief newspa- 
per supporter, "La Minerve," condemned Kiel, was an- 
other reason why Langevin and his organ, "Le Monde," 
should demand pardon. Langevin gave his friends to 
understand that either through executive pardon or a 
medical finding of insanity, Kiel would escape the gal- 
lows, and "Le Monde" outshouted its contemporaries 
in praise of Kiel and anathemas upon his opponents. 
Even "La Minerve" was forced to shift its position and, 
while contending that petitions, not criticisms, should be 
directed to the government, promised that the Bleus 
would do more for Kiel than his Rouge champions. 

The government itself therefore contributed largely 

311 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

to the agitation in Quebec and to the belief that Kiel 
would never be executed. When at last after much 
balancing of opinion balancing of votes, its critics 
charged the majority in the cabinet decided that Kiel 
must swing, the news was received in Quebec, first with 
incredulity, then with the stupor of a national calam- 
ity, and then with a universal cry of anger that shook 
not merely the government but the nation to its found- 
ations. The strength of the feeling that pervaded the 
whole province that fateful November may be gauged 
from an editorial the day after the hanging, from the 
staunchest defender of the government in the province, 
a journal which for months had derided Kiel's claim to 
sympathy, "La Minerve" : 

Why is it that Kiel, the fugitive rebel of 1870, the inmate 
of the asylums of Saint-Jean and Beauport, the author of the 
late rebellion, the insulter of the bishops and priests of his 
church, the instigator of the Indian rising and the man respon- 
sible for the massacre of Frog Lake, the wretched rebel hiding 
among the women and children while his men were giving them- 
selves up to death at Batoche, why is it that this traitor, 
this apostate, this madman, for that and nothing but that 
is what Kiel has been, holds so great a place in the public 
mind? . . . What is the mysterious force which creates this 
movement, which lets loose the tempest that threatens to 
overturn in its course reputations, prestige, power? It is 
a thing at once petty and great, fickle and determined, tender 
and cruel. It is the wounding of the national self-esteem. 
Riel will leave no trace in the memories of men by the work 
he has done, the ideas he has given forth, the doctrines he 
has preached, and yet his name marks a deep furrow in the 
political soil of our young country. The reason is that the 
hand that placed the gallows rope about his neck wounded 

312 



RAIL AND KIEL 

a whole people. It is becaus'e the cry of justice, calling for 
his death in the name of the law, has been drowned by the cry 
of fanaticism calling for revenge. That is why the death of 
this criminal takes on the proportions of a national calamity. 

To every man in public life, and not least to Wilfrid 
Laurier, the crisis brought a challenge. He was not a 
man easily stirred by 'popular cries. His instincts 
were all on the side of order and constitutional pro- 
cedure. He desired, as few men of the day desired, the 
close union of the two races of Canada. Yet in the 
Canada of that day, Canadianism pure and unhy- 
phenated was still an aspiration, and if the practical al- 
ternative was merely to be English-Canadian, Laurier 
would prefer to be French-Canadian. He had little 
sympathy with Kiel, much with the Metis whose cause 
Riel had championed so blunderingly. His anger 
burned deep against the government's bungling and 
neglect, and the ill-concealed scorn for all that was 
French-Canadian which marked the noisier elements 
in Ontario awoke resentment even in his balanced 
mind. When the unbelievable news came that the 
government had let Riel go to the scaffold, it seemed 
to him for a brief moment that the hopes of his youth 
were doomed to disappointment, that racial harmony 
was a mirage, and that nothing remained but for each 
section to make itself strong and independent. 

Quebec's anger found expression in countless meet- 
ings of protest, in editorials and pamphlets and peti- 
tions, but the most striking manifestation was the 
great meeting held in Montreal, in the Champ de 

313 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

Mars, on the Sunday following the hanging. Never 
in Montreal's history had there been a gathering to 
compare to it. Forty thousand people crowded about 
the three platforms which had been erected, and 
cheered every one of the thirty speakers to the echo. 
Party lines seemed to have disappeared; Mercier and 
Desjardins, Robidoux and Beaubien, Turcotte and 
Trudel, Beausoleil and Bergeron, Poirier and Tarte, 
Rouge and Bleu, voiced the indignation of a united 
people. Laurier spoke with the rest. Henceforth 
there would be in Quebec neither Liberals nor Con- 
servatives; the government's callous policy had broken 
down party lines. The half-breeds had been the vic- 
tims of extortion and neglect and contempt, they had 
been driven to revolt. "Had I been born on the banks 
of the Saskatchewan," he was reported as declaring in a 
sentence that for ten years every Tory editor in Can- 
ada kept standing in type, "I would myself have shoul- 
dered a musket to fight against the neglect of govern- 
ments and the shameless greed of speculators." 

Throughout the winter the agitation flamed. Many 
wild and foolish words were spoken, Riel was painted 
a hero, a martyr, a saint, and the members of the gov- 
ernment, particularly the Bleu leaders, hanged in 
effigy. The Quebec Liberals joined forces with the 
dissentient Conservatives, including a number of 
Castors; many of them had previously been ready to 
come to terms with the Chapleau wing of the Bleus, 
and even to accept Chapleau as leader, but Chapleau 
had declined the advances, and carried on a courageous 

314 



RATT. AND KIEL 

against the government's critics. He did not 
fight alone. The English Liberals of Qudbec dis- 
countenanced the agitation; Henri Joly and W. J. 
Watts resigned their seats in the local house in witness 
of their disapproval. The dignitaries of the Church 
threw all their weight into the same scale. Mgr. 
Fabre, Mgr. Gravel, Mgr. Moreau, Mgr. 
and Mgr. Cameron in Xova Scotia, issued 
pointing out the sin of revolution, 
spect to constituted authority, warning against ike 
danger of irreverence and anarchy, and reminding 
their flocks that after all ft was to the bishops, not to the 
journalists, that the Holy Spirit had confided the task 
of guiding the Church and its members. 

Laurier shouldered no more muskets. He re- 
mained firm in his indignation against the govern- 
ment's laxness before the rebellion and its sternness 
after, but he had no sympathy with those who heaped 
personal abuse on every pendard and exalted Kiel to a 
martyr's seat. He could not support the policy to 
which the provincial Liberal leaders were committed, 
of attempting to form a Parti National, * union of ail 
French-Canadians, for he had long ago realized and 
pointed out to his compatriots the folly of 
tion He took no more part in 
tions, but prepared to take the government to task in 
the House. 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

Quebec's outburst had been followed by a still more 
extraordinary if more limited crusade in Ontario. 
Fearing that the government had lost Quebec, and 
seeking to restore the balance by creating a solid On- 
tario, Conservative organs, and particularly the "Mail," 
broke into furious attacks upon "French-Canadian 
domination," which made "L'Etendard" seem a mod- 
erate and reasonable sheet, and far outdistanced George 
Brown at his worst. Quebec had demanded that no 
criminal must be punished if French blood ran in his 
veins; it sought to impose its arrogant will on all 
Canada. The answer must be plain. "Let us sol- 
emnly assure them again," declared the "Mail" on 
November 23, "that rather than submit to such a yoke, 
Ontario would smash Confederation into its original 
fragments, preferring that the dream of a united 
Canada should be shattered forever." And again, 
two days later: "As Britons we believe the conquest 
will have to be fought over again. Lower Canada 
may depend upon it there will be no treaty of 1763. 
The victors will not capitulate next time. . . . But 
the French-Canadian people will lose everything. 
The wreck of their fortunes and their happiness would 
be swift, complete and irremediable/' And the 
"Orange Sentinel": "Must it be said that the rights 
and liberties of the English people in this English 
colony depend upon a foreign race? . . . The 
day is near when an appeal to arms will be heard in all 
parts of Canada. Then certainly our soldiers, benefit- 
ing by the lessons of the past, will have to complete in 

316 



RAIL AND KIEL 

this country the work they began in the North- West." 
Ontario Liberals were divided. The majority, both 
of the leaders and of the rank and file, believed the exe- 
cution was justified, but a large minority attacked it. 
Partisanship plajyed as obvious a part in their manoeu- 
vring as in the backing and filling of the ministers and 
their supporters; some of the Liberal newspapers 
which condemned the government for hanging Kiel 
would have condemned it as strongly for pardoning 
him. A Conservative speaker, J. C. Rykert, amused 
himself by collecting specimens of inconsistency and 
sharp curves; the classic instance was that of the Port 
Hope "Guide" which before the execution declared, 
"It has come to a pretty pass indeed when a red-handed 
rebel can thus snap his fingers at the law," and after, 
"It has come to a pretty pass indeed that in the noon- 
tide glare of the nineteenth century political offenders 
must suffer death if they dare to assert their just rights." 
Yet there was more in the protest than partisan ma- 
noeuvring. For months before the hanging opinion 
had been turning steadily toward clemency, toward a 
clearer recognition not only of the government's com- 
plicity but of Kiel's irresponsibility. Until the last 
moment it was not believed that the sentence would be 
enforced. The revelation of the effect upon Quebec 
completed the proof of the national inexpediency of 
the government's decision. 

Blake had been absent in England from the end of 
August until the end of December. His attitude was 
awaited with keen interest. In his first public address 

317 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

in London, Ontario, in January, he declared that he 
did not desire a party conflict over the Regina tragedy : 

I do not propose to construct a party platform out of the 
Regina scaffold. ... I believe we cannot, if we would, make 
of this a party question. After full reflection, I do not enter- 
tain that desire, but were it otherwise, I doubt that the result 
could be accomplished. ... I entertain the impression that 
with us as with the Tories there are differences of opinion in 
the ranks not likely to be composed, and which I at any rate 
shall make no endeavour to control to a party end. 

While going on to rebuke some of the extreme outbursts 
from Quebec, and remaining of the opinion that the 
execution of Riel neither should nor could be made a 
strictly party question, Blake was none the less deter- 
mined to express his individual views and to arraign the 
government in the measured and serious words the cri- 
sis demanded. He was, in fact, prepared to go further 
than his Quebec lieutenant. In a consultation in Ot- 
tawa shortly after the London speech, Laurier urged 
that, as before, the guilt of the government, not the 
punishment of Riel, should be the question to keep in 
the foreground, but Blake was prepared, if need be, to 
change the emphasis. 

The House opened the end of February. Realiz- 
ing that a debate was inevitable, the government ma- 
noeuvred to secure the most favourable fighting 
ground. One of its Quebec supporters, Philippe 
Landry of Montmagny, who had condemned the exe- 
cution, undertook to move a resolution "that this 
House feels it its duty to express its deep regret that the 
sentence of death passed upon Louis Riel, convicted of 

318 



RAIL AND KIEL 

high treason, was allowed to he carried into execution." 
The moment his speech, condemning the government 
in moderate phrases, was concluded, Langevin took the 
floor, and after a very brief and formal defence, de- 
clared that "in order that there may be no misunder- 
standing, no false issues or side issues, and that we may 
have a direct vote," he would move the previous ques- 
tion. This prevented the offering of any further 
amendment, and compelled the Liberals to debate and 
vote upon the question of Kiel's punishment, on which 
they were divided, rather than to offer an amendment, 
on which they would have united, condemning the gov- 
ernment for its whole North- West policy. It was an 
adroit manoeuvre, and though M. Landry denied col- 
lusion, his protests carried little credence. 

The debate was long and bitter. Macdonald did not 
speak, nor any of the Ontario Liberals who opposed the 
motion, but every angle of opinion was abundantly 
presented. A second government follower, Colonel 
Amyot, supported Landry; Royal of Provencher, 
Kiel's former friend, insisted that the Liberals were 
worse than the government. Malcolm Cameron con- 
demned the "corrupt, incompetent, and imbecile" minis- 
try for casting dice over the body of Riel and finally 
yielding to Orange pressure. Curran defended with tu 
quoques, Rykert produced his scrap-book, Francois 
Langelier reviewed Langevin's devious policy, and 
Pierre Bechard, an old Rouge of moderate but firm con- 
victions, reviewed the policy adopted elsewhere toward 
unsuccessful rebellion. 

319 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

It was late on the night of March 16 when M. Bech- 
ard concluded. The government put no one up to an- 
swer him. The Speaker began to ask whether the 
question should be put, when Laurier rose. The 
empty house filled quickly. For two hours it listened, 
breathless; at more than one tense moment, not a 
sound was heard but the speaker's ringing voice and 
the ticking of the clock. 

Laurier wasted no words. At the outset he accused 
the government of judicial murder. In his province the 
execution had been universally condemned, as the sacri- 
fice of a life not to inexorable justice but to bitter passion 
and revenge. He denounced as a vile calumny the 
"Mail's" contention that French-Canadians opposed 
the punishment of any criminal of French blood. The 
press of the whole world had condemned that act. 
Doubtless kinship added keenness to conviction: "I 
cheerfully admit and I will plead guilty to that weak- 
ness, if weakness it be, that if an injustice be committed 
against a fellow-being, the blow will fall deeper into 
my heart if it should fall upon one of my kith and kin." 
He denied absolutely any sympathy with the suicidal 
policy of forming a purely French-Canadian party. 
In concise and lucid review he indicted the government 
for its years of neglect, not to be atoned for by eleventh- 
hour repentance: "At last justice was coming to them. 
In ten days, from the twenty-sixth of March to the 
sixth of April, the government had altered their policy 
and had given what they had refused for years. What 

320 



RAIL AND RIEL 

was the cause? The bullets of Duck Lake, the rebel- 
lion in the North- West. . . ." 

I appeal now to any friend of liberty in this House; I 
appeal not only to the Liberals who sit beside me, but to any 
man who has a British heart in his breast, and I ask, when 
subjects of Her Majesty have been petitioning for years for 
their rights, and these rights' have not only been ignored, but 
have been denied, and when these men take their lives in 
their hands and rebel, will any one in this House say that 
these men, when they got their rights, should not have saved 
their heads as well, and that the criminals, if criminals there 
were in this rebellion, are not those who fought and bled and 
died, but the men who sit on thes'e Treasury benches? Sir, 
rebellion is always an evil, it is always an offence against the 
positive law of a nation ; it is not always a moral crime. The 
Minister of Militia in the week that preceded the execution 
of Riel declared : "I hate all rebels ; I have no sympathy, good, 
bad or indifferent, with rebellion." Sir, what is hateful . . . 
is not rebellion but the despotism which induces that rebellion ; 
what is hateful are not rebels but the men, who, having the 
enjoyment of power, do not discharge the duties of power; 
they are the men who, having the power to redress wrongs, 
refuse to listen to the petitions that are sent to them; they 
are the men who, when they are asked for a loaf, give a 
stone.i . . . Though, Mr. Speaker; these men were in the 
wrong; though the rebellion had to be put down; though 
it was the duty of the Canadian government to assert its 
authority and vindicate the law, still, I ask any friend of 
liberty, is there not a feeling rising in his heart, stronger 
than all reasoning to the contrary, that those men were 
excusable? 

Such were, Mr. Speaker, my sentiments. I spoke them else- 
where. I have had, since that time, occasion to realize that 
I have greatly shocked Tory editors and Tory members. Sir, 
I know what Tory loyalty is 1 . Tories have always been famous* 
for being loyal so long as it was profitable to be so. . 

321 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

Sir, I will not receive any lectures on loyalty from men with 
such a record. I am a British subject, and I value the proud 
title as much as any one in this House. But if it is expected 
of me that I shall allow fellow-countrymen, unfriended, un- 
defended, unprotected, and unrepresented in this House, to be 
trampled under foot by this government, I s'ay that is not 
what I understand by loyalty, I would call that slavery. . . . 
Sir, I am not of those who look upon Louis Riel as a hero. 
Nature had endowed him with many brilliant qualities, but 
nature denied him that supreme quality without which all other 
qualities, however brilliant, are of no avail. Nature denied 
him a well-balanced mind. At his worst he was a subject 
fit for an asylum; at his best he was a religious and political 
^monomaniac. But he was 1 not a bad man I do not believe 
at least that he was the bad man he has been represented 
to be in a certain press. But that he was insane appears to 
me beyond the possibility of controversy. When the reports 
first came here last spring and in the early summer of his 
doings' and sayings in the North-West, when we heard that 
he was to depose the Pope and establish an American Pope, 
those who did not know him believed he was an impostor, 
but those who knew him knew at once what was the matter. 
In the province of Quebec there was not an instant's hesita- 
tion about it. Almost every man in that province knew that 
he had been several times confined in asylums, and therefore 
it was manifest to the people of Quebec that he had fallen 
into one of those misfortunes with which he was afflicted. 
When his counsel were engaged and commenced to prepare his 
trial, they saw at once that if justice to him and only justice 
was to be done, their plea should be a plea of insanity. 

Laurier went on to impugn the fairness of the trial: 
the request of Kiel's counsel for delay, for witnesses, 
were granted only in part; the requests for Kiel's 
papers were refused. The medical commission sent 
to Regina was a shameful sham. Kiel's secretary, 

322 



RAIL AND KIEL 

William Jackson, was acquitted as insane; why, the 
people of Lower Canada demanded, was a different 
measure meted out to the man of French blood? "Jack- 
son is free to-day, Riel is in his grave," 
Then followed a reference to old wounds: 

The death of Scott is the cause of the death of Riel to-day. 
Why, if the honourable gentleman thinks that the death of 
Scott was a crime, did he not punish Riel at the time? 1870, 
'71, '72, '73, almost four years passed away, and yet the 
government, knowing such a crime as it has been represented 
here had been committed, never took any step to have the 
crime punished. What was their reason? The reason was 
that the government had promised to condone the offence; 
the reason was that the government was not willing to let 
that man come to trial but on the contrary actually supplied 
him with money to induce him to leave the country. Sir, 
I ask any man on the other side of the House, if this offence 
was punishable then, why was it not punished then, and if it 
was not punishable then, why is it punished now? . . . This 
issue of the death of Thomas Scott has long been buried, 
and now it is raised by whom? It is raised by members op- 
posite, the last men who should ever speak of it. Sir, we 
are a new nation, we are attempting to unite the different 
conflicting elements which we have into a nation. Shall we 
ever succeed if the bond of union is to be revenge? 

The example of the United States after the Civil War 
should have been followed. Time had proved that 
General Grant, who stood for pardon, was a "truer 
patriot, a truer statesman than Andrew Johnston, who 
urged a trial for treason." 

You see the result to-'day. Scarcely twenty years have 
passed away since that rebellion, the most terrible that ever 

323 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

shook a civilized nation, was put down, and because of the 
merciful course adopted by the victors, the two sections of 
that country are now more closely united than ever be- 
fore. . . . But our government say they were desirous of 
giving a lesson. . . . Had they taken as much pains to do 
right as 1 they have taken to punish wrong, they would never 
have had any occasion to convince those people that the law 
cannot be violated with impunity, because the law would never 
have been violated at all. 

Then came the conclusion: 

But to-day, not to speak of those who have lost their 
lives, our prisons are full of men who, despairing ever to get 
justice by peace, sought to obtain it by war, who, despairing 
of ever being treated like freemen, took their lives in their 
hands, rather than be treated as slaves. They have suffered 
a great deal, they are suffering still; yet their sacrifices will 
not be without reward. Their leader is in the grave, they 
are in durance, but from their prisons they can see that that 
justice, that liberty which the*y sought in vain, and for which 
they fought not in vain, has at last dawned upon their country. 
Their fate well illustrates the truth of Byron's invocation to 
liberty, in the introduction to the Pris'oner of Chillon : 

Eternal Spirit of the chainless mind! 
Brightest in dungeons, Liberty thou art! 
For there thy habitation is the heart 
The heart which love of thee alone can bind; 
And when thy sons to fetters are consigned 
To fetters and the damp vault's dayless gloom, 
Their country conquers with their martyrdom. 

Yes, their country has conquered with their martyrdom. 
They are in durance to-day; but the rights for which they 
were fighting have been acknowledged. We have not the 
report of the commission yet, but we know that more than 
two thousand claims so long denied have been at last granted. 
And more still more. We have it in the Speech from the 
Throne that at last representation is to be granted to those 
Territories. This side of the House long sought, but s'ought 

824 



RAIL AND KIEL 

in vain, to obtain that measure of justice. It could not come 
then, but it came after the war; it came as the last conquest 
of that insurrection. And again I say that their country 
has conquered with their martyrdom, and if we look at that 
one fact alone there was cause sufficient, independent of all 
others, to extend mercy to the one who is dead and to those 
who live. 

Never had the House heard a more moving speech. 
Never did Laurier's eloquence rise higher. Friend and 
opponent joined in rare tribute. Thomas White, who 
had succeeded Senator Macpherson as Minister of the 
Interior, referred next day to "a speech of which, al- 
though I differ from him altogether, I as a Canadian 
am justly proud, because I think it is a matter of com- 
mon pride to us that any public man in Canada can 
make on the floor of parliament such a speech as we lis- 
tened to last night," and Blake declared it "the crown- 
ing proof of French domination ; my honourable friend, 
not contented with having for this long time in his own 
tongue borne away the palm of parliamentary elo- 
quence, has invaded ours, and in that field has pro- 
nounced a speech which in my humble opinion, merits 
this compliment, because it is the truth, that it was the 
finest parliamentary speech ever pronounced in the 
Parliament of Canada since Confederation." 

The debate went on. Caron dwelt on Kiel's Indian 
negotiations and defended himself from the charge of 
callous participation in a Western banquet on the day 
Biel was expected to hang; Mills gave an admirably 
judicial review of the evidence manifesting Kiel's in- 
sanity; Chapleau declared that Laurier had met the 

325 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

criticism of his bold and fatal words in the Champ de 
Mars by a more audacious speech in the House, and 
that Blake had chivalrously but uselessly sought to sup- 
port his lieutenant by sacrificing his own convictions. 
But the outstanding speeches after Laurier's were 
Blake's and Thompson's. Blake refrained from further 
discussion of the government's North-West policy; for 
five hours he piled proof upon proof of Kiel's insanity 
and of the weight of precedent against holding men in 
his situation responsible for their acts. 1 John Thomp- 
son, who had recently left the Bench in Nova Scotia to 
become Minister of Justice in the Macdonald cabinet, 
replied in a speech which, if not so eloquent or weighty 
as Blake's, was powerful and reasoned and made it 
clear that a man of first calibre had been added to the 
ranks of parliament. 

The government was sustained by the largest major- 
ity of the session, 146 to 52. Seventeen Quebec sup- 

l In considering the failure to recognize this fact, weight must be given 
not merely to party and racial passion, but to the lack of knowledge 
prevailing forty years ago as to the nature and effects of insanity. To-day, 
no medical authority would question that the man who was hanged at 
Regina was insane: "When one considers the mass of testimony pointing 
to Kiel's mental defect, the undoubted history of insanity from boyhood, 
with the recurring paroxysms of intense excitement, he wonders that there 
could have been the slightest discussion regarding it. ... Riel's was simply 
a case of evolutional insanity, which would in the modern school no 
doubt be classed as one of the paranoiac forms of dementia. The first 
manifestations, as were to be expected, were observed when he was at a 
critical period of his boyhood. His early associations were of such a 
nature as to turn his mind to the wrongs of his people and develop the 
religious fanaticism so prominent at all times in his career. Persecution 
is invariably the accompaniment of the paranoiac delusion, and nowhere 
have I seen such intense cases of this form of insanity develop as on the 
lonely prairies of the North- West, and they have all been of the very same 
type as Riel's." Dr. C. K. Clarke, Superintendent of Rockwood Asylum, 
in "Queen's Quarterly," April-June, 1905. 

326 



RAIL AND KIEL 

porters of the government voted against it; twenty- 
three Liberals, including Mackenzie, Cartwright, and 
Charlton from Ontario, Fisher from Quebec, and Wat- 
son from Manitoba, parted from Blake and Laurier. 
The smart Landry-Langevin manoeuvre had turned the 
issue to the hurt of the Opposition rather than of the 
government. Even so, Laurier always insisted that 
Blake could have saved the situation had he heeded the 
advice to put the emphasis on the government's neglect 
rather than on Kiel's insanity. 

The country did not escape so easily as the Ottawa 
ministry. In Ontario the "Mail's" agitation stirred old 
sectarian fires, and for years to come new fuel, the 
North- West language issue, the Jesuits' Estates Act, 
the Manitoba schools controversy, fed the flames. In 
Quebec, Honore Mercier rode the tempest to power. 
In the election campaign of October, 1886, Mercier 
raised the same cry of provincial autonomy which Mo- 
wat in Ontario and Fielding in Nova Scotia had found 
of such avail, and, with less justification, appealed to 
the people's anger against the party that had hanged 
Kiel. * The Ross government, after a vain attempt to 
reorganize under Hon. L. O. Taillon, resigned in Janu- 



a speech in Quebec the night before assuming the premiership, Mer- 
cier declared: "When the murder of Louis Kiel had been consummated, 
when that unfortunate and unbalanced man had been hung on the gibbet, 
it was assumed that the question was settled. That was a grave mistake. 
The French-Canadian people felt that a deep blow had been inflicted upon 
their nationality. . . . We took up that question because we felt that the 
murder of Kiel was a declaration of war upon French-Canadian influence 
in Confederation, a violation of right and of justice. . . . We cannot expect 
our English speaking fellow-citizens to share our sentiments to the full, 
but throughout all Canada, there is not a free and honest man who is not 
ready to join with us in condemning the iniquities of the North-West 
policy." 

327 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

ary, and Mercier formed a ministry, including two 
Nationalist-Conservatives. Throughout the Dominion 
sectional sentiment grew, national unity appeared a 
dream. The agitation for commercial union with the 
United States which marked the next four years was 
based as much on political as on commercial despair. 
Laurier had repeated in the House the stand he had 
taken in the Champ de Mars. He was prepared to go 
further, to repeat in Toronto the charges he had made 
in Ottawa. Toronto newspapers dared him to shoulder 
his musket in Ontario. He determined to take up the 
challenge. The older Liberals attempted to dissuade 
him. There was, however, a vigorous Young Men's 
Liberal Club in Toronto which cared less for expedi- 
ency. An invitation was sent him on behalf of the club 
to speak on the North- West rebellion on December 10, 
in the Horticultural Pavilion in Toronto. It was 
promptly accepted. The announcement was met with 
renewed attacks upon Laurier and dire hints of personal 
assault. The Young Liberals organized a body-guard, 
but the city showed its good sense by avoiding any 
unusual demonstration or interruption. After a 
crowded reception at the Rossin House, Laurier faced 
a tremendous audience at the Pavilion. His speech 
was not one of his great achievements. A theory, none 
too well founded, that an Anglo-Saxon audience pre- 
ferred cold logic to moving eloquence, led him to make 
long citations from state documents which lessened his 
effectiveness. Yet he carried his audience with him 
throughout, and his closing appeal drove conviction 

328 



RAIL AND KIEL 
home, A Young Liberal of those days wrote lately: 

People endured the cold of a bleak December night in 
the topmost gallery of the pavilion, leaning in through lowered 
windows' to hear the address to the end. The vote of thanks 
was moved by Edward Blake, in an address of half an hour, 
which many considered the most powerful public address Blake 
had ever given. It seemed as if the elder statesman had 
been put on his mettle by the triumph of his lieutenant; 
certainly he fully rivalled him in eloquence. It was a great 
night ; those who went to s'coff remained to cheer. 

The Tory press had denounced French-Canadians 
as disloyal. Who were the men who made this charge? 
The party which for thirty long years had been kept in 
power by French-Canadian votes: "Yesterday, in 
order to retain power these men pandered to the pre- 
judices of my fellow-countrymen in Canada. To-day, 
when they see that notwithstanding all that, the votes 
are now escaping them, they turn in another direction, 
and pander to what prejudices they suppose may exist 
in this province." The charge was false. French- 
Canadians had become attached to British institutions 
and the British connection because they had found more 
freedom under the flag of St. George than they could 
ever have had as subjects of France. True, they re- 
tained their racial individuality: 

I honour and esteem English institutions, I do not regret 
that we are now subjects of the Queen instead of France; 
but may my right hand wither by my side, if the memories 
of my forefathers ever cease to be dear to my ears. . . . We 
are Canadians. Below the island of Montreal the water that 
comes from the north, the Ottawa, unites with the waters 
that come from the Western lakes', but uniting they do not 

329 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

mix. There they run parallel, separate, distinguishable, and 
yet are one stream, flowing within the same banks, the mighty 
St. Lawrence, rolling on toward the sea bearing the commerce 
of a nation upon its bosom,- a perfect image of our nation. 
We may not assimilate, we may not blend, but for all that 
we are the component parts of the same country. We may 
be French in our origin, and I do not deny my origin, I 
pride myself on it, we may be English or Scotch, or what- 
ever it may be, but we are Canadians, one in aim and purpose 
... As Canadians' we have feelings in common with each 
other that are not shared by our fellow-countrymen on the 
other side of the water. As Canadians we are affected by 
local and national considerations which bind us together ; 
we look back to the land of our ancestors and feel, for all 
that, no less good Canadians. 

In great detail Mr. Laurier proceeded to arraign the 
government for its North-West policy. He prefaced: 

In my opinion, the guilt of the rebellion does not rest with 
the miserable wretches who took up arms but rests altogether 
with the government who provoked it. ... I bring this charge 
against the government, and I will endeavour, I think I will 
not fail, to prove, that the half-breeds were denied for long 
years rights and justice, rights which were admitted as soon as 
they were asked by bullets; I charge against them that they 
have treated the half-breeds with contempt, with undisguised 
disdain; I charge against them that they would not listen to 
their prayers ; I charge against them that they drove them to 
despair, that they drove them to the rashness, to the madness, 
to the crime which they afterwards committed. 

"When we find a government ill-treating a poor 
people, simply because they are poor and ignorant," he 
concluded, "I say that it behooves us to fight freely with 
all the means that the constitution places in our hands." 

In a series of addresses in western Ontario, in Lon- 

330 



RAIL AND RIEL 

don, Stratford, Windsor, Laurier repeated his criticism 
of the government. The government press had prophe- 
sied a hostile reception; the "Mail" had printed "Don't 
put his head under the pump" editorials; at London 
dodgers were circulated inciting an attack upon "the 
traitor Laurier." But beyond a few interruptions 
which the speaker readily parried, no trouble developed. 

Laurier had taken in Ontario the stand he had taken 
in Quebec, and Ontario had been convinced alike of his 
courage and of his moderation. 

Kiel was dead, but his deeds lived after him. On- 
tario and Quebec were once more at loggerheads, with 
the Maritime provinces wearying of their bickering. 
The old Bleu party had been shaken and Mercier 
exalted, Ontario Liberalism split, Blake divided from 
his party, Laurier's powers revealed. 



331 



CHAPTER VII 

> 

LEADER OF THE LIBERAL PAETY 

The General Elections of 1887 Blake on the Tariff Renewed 
Defeat The Resignation of Blake His Power of Leadership 
Gartwright and Mills Laurier Ghosen Leader Building up a 
Party. 

FOR the second time since assuming the leader- 
ship of the Liberal party, Edward Blake faced 
his opponents in the general election of Feb- 
ruary, 1887. Five years had passed since the first en- 
counter, years of rapidly shifting issues, of party ebb 
and flow. Blake had no little ground for believing that 
better fortune would attend the second conflict. Not 
least among the signs of change was the outcome of the 
provincial elections which, by a most unusual coincidence, 
had been held in every section of the Dominion in the 
preceding year. True, the West remained Conserva- 
tive, John Norquay, the able half-breed chief of that 
party, returning to power in Manitoba, and William 
Smith, leader of a more or less Conservative group in 
British Columbia, retaining control of the Pacific pro- 
vince. But the West then counted little in numbers or 
prestige. The East had voted solidly Liberal. In 
April, William S. Fielding had swept Nova Scotia; in 
June, Andrew G. Blair, leading a coalition party of a 
predominantly Liberal tinge, carried New Brunswick by 
a large majority; in October, Honore Mercier turned a 

332 



LEADER OF THE LIBERAL PARTY 

small minority into a majority, and in December Oliver 
Mowat won his fourth success. The omens seemed 
favourable, and Blake himself had no shred of doubt as 
to the issue. 

The government pointed with pride to the prosperity 
of the country clouded, it was true, but only for the 
moment and to the successful completion of the Cana- 
dian Pacific. To the business men who were building 
up factories under the shelter of the national-policy wall, 
the bogey of the blue ruin free trade would bring was 
once more displayed. In Ontario the Riel issue was 
relied upon to lose votes for the Opposition, while in 
Quebec the support of the bishops would keep the loss 
anticipated by the government within narrow bounds. 
In Ontario constituencies the Grits had been hived into 
harmlessness ; the franchise lists were now in the hands of 
the government's friends; Macdonald was still able to 
rouse to fever heat the eager loyalty of his myriad of 
personal followers; what was there to fear? 

The Opposition pictured the country hurling head- 
long into bankruptcy through the government's extrav- 
agance. They rang the changes on every instance of 
administrative corruption and political jobbery. They 
held the ministers to account not merely for the un- 
doubted ebb in commercial prosperity but for the rising 
tide of political discontent; with Manitoba up in arms 
against the federal railway policy, with Nova Scotia on 
the verge of secession, with Ontario and Quebec at log- 
gerheads, what had become of the heritage of good-will 
and reasoned hope with which the Dominion had been 

333 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

endowed at its birth? In Ontario the cry of provincial 
rights and in Quebec the North-West issue were relied 
upon. And as for the personal factor, the five years 
that had passed had given unquestioned proof that in 
intellectual capacity, in statesmanlike grasp and breadth 
of vision, in unflagging study of every rising issue, 
Blake stood head and shoulders above all his contempo- 
raries. 

On one question Blake was careful to define anew 
his stand. He insisted that the tariff was not an issue. 
Even in 1882 he had made it clear that his objections 
were against details and not against the principle of 
protection. Now he declared, notably in a speech at 
Malvern in January, 1887, that even change in detail 
was less feasible, since the enormous increase in debt and 
expenditure made it necessary to raise still larger sums 
from customs. Free trade was absolutely out of the 
question. "I have only to repeat," he asserted, "in the 
most emphatic language, my declaration that there is in 
my judgment no possibility of a change in that system 
of taxation which I have described, the necessary effect 
of which is to give a large and ample advantage to the 
home manufacturer over his competitor abroad." Some 
reduction of duties on raw materials, some readjust- 
ment to lighten the burden on the goods consumed by the 
poor, there should be, but no sweeping change. The 
"Globe" dotted his i's and crossed his t's. Tory extrav- 
agance had put low tariffs out of the question; the tariff 
was not an issue in the campaign; there would be no 
revolutionary changes, no factory would close its doors, 

334 



LEADER OF THE LIBERAL PARTY 

no one but a few Tory hacks would lose a day's work 
after the election. "After this," it concluded, "no manu- 
facturer has any excuse for ranging himself in hostility 
to the Liberal party on account of the tariff." 

Blake was not to be allowed to decide what would and 
what would not be an issue. Manufacturers could not 
forget, or at least were not allowed to forget, that in the 
past the Liberals had stood, if not for free trade, for at 
any rate a lower tariff and sweeping reduction of the 
most burdensome and monopolistic schedules. The 
Conservative press insisted that it was to Cartwright, 
not to Blake, that the country must look for light on 
Liberal tariff policy. Blake had sought to meet this 
contention in his Malvern speech: 

Some of your adversaries presume to say that it is not I 
who am to expound the party policy on this question, and 
that you must look elsewhere for light. The general prin- 
ciples and policy of the party have been shaped under my 
lead by the concurrence of its representatives in parliament. 
What I have said and am about to say, you may take as 
authoritative to whatever extent a leader has authority, and 
so far from there being divergence I can assure you there 
is in my belief a general concurrence of sentiment between us, 
including Sir Richard Cartwright, whom I name only because 
our adversaries delight to represent him as holding other views. 

On February 22 the electors rendered judgment, or 
at least decision. The results were deeply disappoint- 
ing to the Liberals. A gain of but two seats in Ontario 
had been offset by a loss of two in Manitoba; Nova 
Scotia and Prince Edward Island sent six more 
Liberals, and Quebec fifteen more opponents of the 

335 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

government, but even so Macdonald could count on a 
majority of thirty. Before the first session was over 
this majority had grown still higher. The bolting 
Bleus from Quebec were not able to resist the lure of 
patronage, and half forgiving, half forgiven, they 
sheepishly returned to the government fold. Ontario 
gerrymanders, Quebec episcopal support, protection- 
ist sentiment, administrative patronage and pressure, 
Macdonald's personal appeal, the division in the Op- 
position ranks on the Riel and tariff issues, had proved 
too much once more for the forces of Liberalism. 

To Blake defeat came as a personal blow. He was 
angered, chagrined, filled with doubts of democracy's 
capacity, doubts of his own powers of leadership. 
Cartwright's unwillingness wholly to sink his views on 
the fiscal question rankled. Insomnia and failing 
health, due in part to overwork but more to nervous 
worry and ceaseless introspection, lessened his force for 
the coming uphill fight. He determined to resign the 
leadership, and in a circular letter, written shortly be- 
fore parliament opened, he so informed his followers. 

It was not the first time Blake had resigned, much less 
the first he had threatened to resign. He had sub- 
mitted his resignation to caucus at the opening of the 
session of 1882, but had been prevailed upon to remain. 
More than once the government press had accepted his 
resignation; at intervals during 1885 the "Mail" fore- 
cast his retirement and the probable succession of Mo- 
wat to the federal leadership. But this was only part 
of the game of weakening the other party's morale, and 

336 







WILFRID LAURIER 

Leader of the Liberal Party, 1887 

(At forty-six) 



LEADER OF THE LIBERAL PARTY 

no more certain prophecy than the "Globe's" jaunty but 
rather premature remark in 1857 that "John A. is 
about to (retire from politics, a thoroughly used-up 
character." More to the point were occasional hints 
thrown out by Blake himself. Replying during the 
campaign to a taunt of Macdonald that he was "de- 
voured with ambition," he had declared that nothing 
would suit him better than to return to the ranks ; it was 
his duty to strive for victory, but if the people gave an 
adverse verdict, he would for his part accept the deci- 
sion gladly and gratefully. Clearly this was the re- 
action of a sensitive nature to a foolish charge, and not 
a considered determination. It was hoped that he 
would be content with giving an opportunity for the 
expression of any criticism, and once more assume the 
leadership. But this time there was to be no drawing 
back. 

Blake's followers recognized that he had idiosyncra- 
sies which told against success as a party leader. With 
all his absorption in politics and his sincere sympathy 
with progressive measures, he had not that lively inter- 
est in individual men which is indispensable for a leader 
and particularly a leader in opposition. He stood aloof 
from his fellows, austere, moody, self-centred. His 
high-strung nervous temperament forced him to build 
up a protecting wall of personal reserve. In debate, 
his comprehensive mind prevented him from assigning 
a definite share of the assault to his lieutenants ; in pri- 
vate conference, he could not easily bend to the light 
word that would ease a strain or the kindly exaggerated 

337 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

compliment by which Macdonald bound his liegemen to 
him. That he was the iceberg his opponents termed 
him, every man who knew him intimately denied with 
vigour, but it was true that he moved in higher and 
more rarified strata of logic than the average man 
could thrive in. Above all, it was questioned whether 
he would for long wage a losing fight. 

For all that, there was not in any responsible quar- 
ter the slightest disposition to question his leadership. 
Whatever his failings, they were regarded as but evi- 
dences of temperament, idiosyncrasies of genius, spots 
upon the sun. In parliament and out, Liberals 
cherished the deepest admiration for his masterful intel- 
lect, his unswerving probity, his high sense of duty to 
the State. Defeat did not lessen their confidence or 
their loyalty. "We knew," as Laurier afterward 
affirmed, "that no man could then have broken the 
Tory machine." There was no movement to seek an- 
other leader, no eager aspirant for his mantle. 

Yet it soon became clear that another leader must 
be sought. Blake held firmly to his determination to 
retire. The parliamentary caucus which met at the be- 
ginning of the session insisted upon re-electing him, 
against his protests, but he declined to accept. 
Through a dull, post-mortem session, the Opposition 
grappled with the task of finding a successor. 

Two men in the Ontario delegation seemed of leader- 
ship calibre, and each was willing to undertake the task. 
Sir Richard Cartwright was one of the strong individ- 
ualities of the House. Grandson of a distinguished 

338 



LEADER OF THE LIBERAL PARTY 

Loyalist who had much to do with establishing both the 
commerce and the public life of Upper Canada on sound 
foundations ; educated in Trinity College, Dublin ; pres- 
ident in his thirties of the Commercial Bank; elected 
to the legislature of united Canada as a Conservative 
in 1863; gradually separated from his party by distrust 
of its financial programme, personal hostility to Mac- 
donald, and disappointment over not being chosen to 
succeed Sir John Rose as Finance Minister in 1869; 
a strong opponent of Macdonald's railway policy and 
vigorous in denunciation of the Pacific scandal, Cart- 
wright had finally thrown in his lot with the Liberals 
and become a member of the Mackenzie government. 
As Minister of Finance through a period of world-wide 
depression, Cartwright was compelled by his opponents 
to bear the responsibility for every closed factory and 
every open soup-kitchen, and had thrust upon him a 
reputation for pessimism and a rigid, doctrinaire laissez- 
faire attitude which was far from earned. Yet in op- 
position, with evidence ever before him of political 
corruption, of hand-to-mouth expediency in high places, 
of the bleeding white of the country by the exodus, he 
undoubtedly did grow more pessimistic and more 
vitriolic. A polished gentleman, a finished debater, 
a master of mordant satire, widely read, with a much 
wider outlook in international affairs than almost any 
of his fellow-parliamentarians, Cartwright was a distinct 
asset in the House, though sometimes a liability in the 
country. For Blake, whom he was wont to term 
"Master Blake" (Blake was fifty-four in 1887, and 

339 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

Cartwright fifty-two) he had little sympathy; his single- 
track mind could not understand the many windings 
and turnings of his leader's thought and action. 

David Mills, on the contrary, was a warm and loyal 
follower, almost a worshipper of Blake. Born in Kent 
County, Ontario, in 1831, educated at the University 
of Michigan, in turn school-teacher, inspector of schools, 
editor, barrister, Mills entered parliament for Bothwell 
in 1867 and for the last two years of the Mackenzie 
regime served as Minister of the Interior. He was 
a solid, industrious, straightforward, moderate man, 
well-read and possessed of a reflective bent and a desire 
to get down to fundamentals which led Macdonald to 
call him always the philosopher of Bothwell. He was 
unquestionably able, but lacked Cartwright's note of 
distinction. While possessed of his share of ambition, 
he would have been quite content to keep Blake's seat 
warm for him if his leader wished at any time to return. 
Yet it was to neither of these men that Blake turned. 
/He knew that Cartwright, though respected, was far 
from universally popular, and the personal antagonism 
between the two men made him discount his Ontario 
colleague's vigorous qualities. Mills he held made for 
a lieutenant's, not a captain's place. In Laurier he 
recognized a born leader./ Intimate intercourse in the 
House and on many political tours^ they had taken 
together had given him the measure of the man. Aside 
from the personal factor, he felt that it was in Quebec 
that the Liberal party's greatest opportunity lay. 
When Mills and Burpee went to Blake on behalf of 

340 



LEADER OF THE LIBERAL PARTY] 

the parliamentary party, seeking advice as to his suc- 
cessor, his reply was emphatic: " There is only one pos- 
sible choice Laurier." 

To many members of the party the suggestion came 
as a surprise. They had taken Blake's leadership so 
much for granted that they had not thought of any 
other man as more than an aide to the chief. Nor 
could they now picture Laurier in his place. They had 
not yet realized the iron determination that lay behind 
that quiet manner, the latent strength housed in that 
frail body. An orator of unsurpassed force and grace, 
they granted, a man of incomparable charm, of un- 
blemished reputation, of high and consistent aims, but 
a student rather than a fighter, too quiet and retiring 
for the task of popular leadership, too weak to hold 
together a party of many strong and assertive person- 
alities and break the hold of Macdonald on the country. 
Even granting the personal qualities, was it expedient 
to set a French-speaking Roman Catholic at the head 
of a party of which the chief strength had always lain 
in the English-speaking provinces, particularly when 
the ashes of the Kiel controversy still were hot, and 
Laurier's musket on exhibit in every Tory sanctum? 
And yet, where was his equal? 

Wilfred Laurier knew his own powers too well either 
to display them before the need came or to fear that 
they would not suffice. Yet he had not thought of 
succeeding to the leadership, and was genuinely averse 
to accepting the task. On personal grounds he pre- 
ferred the quiet life he had been leading, the practice 

341 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

of his profession, the constant browsing in the parlia- 
mentary library, the daily warm and pleasant com- 
munion with chosen friends, the occasional call for 
a parliamentary jousting. On party grounds, he 
doubted, even more than his Ontario friends, the wis- 
dom of choosing a man who was too good a Catholic 
to suit Ontario and not submissive enough to suit 
Quebec. If Blake must retire, he was convinced that 
Cartwright was the man to succeed. 

When Mills and Burpee reported Blake's attitude, 
Laurier went to his house, urged him to reconsider, and 
declared that he could not himself undertake the leader- 
ship. Aside from other personal grounds, he was not 
a man of independent means, and the new post would 
involve a heavy pecuniary sacrifice; but it was mainly 
the party reasons against the choice of a leader from 
Quebec he emphasized. Blake, who was not well, lay 
stretched upon a sofa, listening while Laurier talked; 
then repeated his insistence that he must retire and that 
no other man but Laurier could face the task. 'Yes, 
Mr. Laurier," added Mrs. Blake, who was present and 
who had evidently discussed the question many times 
with her husband, "you are the only man for it." 

On June 2, two months after the House met, Blake 
definitely resigned. An advisory committee was named 
in caucus, Cartwright and Mills from Ontario, Laurier 
and Francois Langelier from Quebec, Charles Weldon 
from New Brunswick, A. G. Jones from Nova Scotia, 
L. H. Davies from Prince Edward Island, and Robert 
Watson from Manitoba. This was only a stop-gap 

342 



LEADER OF THE LIBERAL PARTY 

measure ; the choice of a leader had to be made without 
further delay. On reflection, the majority of the party 
had come to Blake's way of thinking. At a caucus 
held on June 7, the leadership was offered to Laurier, 
Cartwright making the nomination and Mills second- 
ing it. Even yet, he hesitated, and deferred a definite 
answer until the end of the session. When the session 
drew to a close, he was persuaded, still against his judg- 
ment, to accept the task and to announce his acceptance 
to the country. Even so, he insisted to the caucus 
that he would retire if Blake's health returned. At 
the age of forty-six years Wilfred Laurier became the 
leader of the party he was to guide for over thirty years. 
The announcement stirred much comment. The 
pervading note was of good-will tempered by doubt. 
"L'Electeur" and "La Patrie" rejoiced that one great 
Canadian had been found to succeed another, and fore- 
cast fair fortunes for Laurier, Liberalism and Canada. 
The "Globe" was more restrained in its eulogies. On 
June 8, commenting on a report that Laurier had been 
elected leader for the session only, it declared that "his 
appointment would be as judicious and generally ac- 
ceptable as any," but that it would be a grave error to 
make him or any other man merely a temporary leader: 
Blake's return was absolutely out of the question. A 
fortnight later, on the announcement of Laurier's ac- 
ceptance, the greeting was warmer: there was every 
reason to believe that Laurier would justify as fully 
as Blake did the old maxim that the man whom a great 
place seeks is the man to fill a great place worthily: 

343 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

an admirable speaker, a man of courage, patriotism, 
character; not yet possessed of Blake's mastery of pro- 
cedure or of business detail, but sure to develop: "he 
has most gallantly and unselfishly placed himself at 
the disposal of his friends ; every Liberal owes him grati- 
tude and every Conservative owes him justice and fair 
play." And yet a lingering doubt is reflected in the 
fact that for weeks thereafter the new leader's name 
never occurs in the columns of the chief journal of 
the party. The "Mail" frankly and fairly recognized 
the new leader's quality. A less sympathetic view was 
reflected in the Toronto "World": Laurier was not 
the Moses to lead the Liberals out of the wilderness; 
an orator, not a parliamentarian, of little political judg- 
ment, amiable, but not the stuff of which leaders are 
made. And "La Minerve," suddenly discovering the 
departing leader's greatness, lamented the "replacing 
of a giant by a pigmy"; Laurier's election might gratify 
the amour propre of Quebec, but it would assure the 
Conservatives of twenty-five years of power: it would 
be the regime of the worthy M. Joly transferred to 
the federal house. Later in the year "La Minerve" 
somewhat less ungraciously expressed its fear that the 
task would prove above his strength, and at the same 
time its willingness to applaud a compatriot if he rose 
to his opportunity. 

Wilfrid Laurier became leader of the Liberal party 
in his forty-sixth year. He had been in political life 
since thirty, and for all but three years of this time in 

344 



LEADER OF THE LIBERAL PARTY 

the federal parliament. Time had tested his political 
qualities ; it had not weakened his political interest. His 
character was formed, his opinions ripened, his capa- 
cities developed. Authority was to give a sharper edge 
to some of his powers, age was to bring some disillusion- 
ment, the turns of fate were to reveal to the public some 
unexpected phases of his character and capacity, but in 
all essentials the Wilfrid Laurier upon whom Edward 
Blake's mantle had fallen so unexpectedly in 1887 was 
the Wilfrid Laurier of the next thirty years. 

It was pre-eminently to his character that Wilfrid 
Laurier owed his new place. The public knew him as 
the silver-tongued orator, his party hailed him as a firm 
and skilled exponent of its principles, but it was not his 
oratory, it was not his opinions, that chiefly marked him 
out for power. Less consciously and obviously it was 
the moral qualities of the man that won the allegiance 
of those who knew him best, his courage, his self-control, 
his honour, his essential kindliness. Courage was per- 
haps his outstanding quality. He was not reckless ; he 
was not regardless of the choice of the paths that led to 
a goal ; he was ever an opportunist as to means ; he had 
constantly in mind the necessity of keeping the country 
moving abreast, but for all that he was unflinching and 
unafraid wherever he found a principle at stake. Self- 
control had marked him from student days, the assur- 
ance of power, the patience to wait, the vigilance of 
phrase, moderation in criticism and attack. Honour 
was rooted in him. No friend ever complained that 

345 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

Wilfrid Laurier had deceived or misled him; no oppo- 
nent ever charged that he had been tricked, or treated 
with other than scrupulous chivalry. It was a bold man 
who could propose in Laurier's presence any shady 
policy, and if he ventured, it was not long until he wilted 
into stammering silence under the calm influence of a 
noble presence. Laurier shrank from mean and ignoble 
things with a repugnance that was almost physical. He 
was ambitious, and the fondness for power grew with its 
exercise, but he was too proud to stoop, too fastidious to 
make cheap bids for popularity. And yet he was not 
self-centred; he did not hold himself aloof. A deep 
and genuine kindliness marked all his actions; it shone 
in the laughing intercourse with old friends in his home, 
in his warm interest in children, in the tolerant attitude 
toward those who differed from him. The perfect cour- 
tesy that marked him through all his years was no cal- 
culated and superficial accomplishment; it was the nat- 
ural outcome of a spirit wherein friendly interest in his 
fellows and respect for himself were subtly fused. * 

i Laurier's estimate of Antoine Dorion is curiously applicable to him- 
self; Dorion had been his boyish ideal and had profoundly influenced his 
development : 

"Considered as party leader Mr. Dorion was himself, and could be com- 
pared with none other. In opinions no one could have been more demo- 
cratic, but he never had resource to those expedients which are sometimes 
^considered indispensable in democratic politics. A man of exquisitely 
courteous manners he yet repelled all familiarity. He never resorted to 
the facile method of courting popularity by spending himself on every 
side. He never sought to flatter vulgar passion; he never deviated from 
the path which seemed to him to be the path of truth. He never sought 
success for the love of success, but he fought persistently for the right as 
he saw it. He faced defeat without weakness, and when success came it 
did not take away his modesty." 

346 



LEADER OF THE LIBERAL PARTY 

The distinction of his presence was in keeping with the 
distinction of his character. Tall, slight, but with a 
broad pair of shoulders, of irregular features, smooth 
face, pale complexion, hair jet-black, he stood out in any 
company. There was about him an indefinable touch 
of authority. "The three greatest French-Canadian 
chieftains of democracy," his friend Senator David has 
noted, "Papineau, Dorion and Laurier, were all of aris- 
tocratic appearance; their bearing, their manners, their 
features, were stamped with the imprint of unusual dis- 
tinction." In friendly talk his features were in repose, 
benovolent, serene ; when business was on foot his wary 
eye sharpened and his face became as expressionless and 
impenetrable as a mask. 

It was as a speaker that he had first made his mark. 
He had now become incomparably the first parliament- 
ary orator, and one of the most skilled debaters in Can- 
ada's annals. He had not Blake's range of mind, his 
grasp and marshalling of intricate detail; he had not 
Chapleau's brilliance and theatrical passion; he could not 
play on crowds with the power and dash of Mercier ; but 
he had distinctive qualities of his own which gave him 
the mastery on the floor of parliament. He did not 
speak often. When he did speak he confined himself to 
a few broad points, developing them logically, calmly, 
persuasively. The thought was not abtruse, the reason- 
ing not subtle; it seemed to the hearer plain common 
sense, touched with emotion, heightened with imagina- 
tion, sharpened in a clinching phrase. In debate he was 

347 



LIFE AND LETTERS .OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

wary, alert, ready in resource, courteous but insistent, 
rarely giving an opponent an opening and rarely missing 
the weak joint in the opponent's armour. His clear sil- 
very voice, his easy gesture, his twinkling eye as he 
rallied an opponent, his stern features as he denounced 
injustice, dominated his hearers. 

Laurier had been reluctant to assume the task. Once 
it was assumed, he threw himself vigorously into all 
its duties. He realized that it was necessary to get 
in touch with the rank and file of the party as well 
as with its leaders. Quebec he already knew. In the 
summer of 1888, accompanied by Mme. Laurier, he 
made a long tour through western Ontario, giving a 
number of addresses, but seeking chiefly to make the 
personal acquaintance of the Liberal stalwarts in each 
riding. His extempore speeches in English were not 
at first as fluent and finished as he desired, but before 
the tour was over he had gained ease and confidence. 
Everywhere his fine presence, his unaffected friendli- 
ness and interest, his frank discussion of the country's 
affairs, won warm allegiance. In the House his success 
was still more rapid and complete. At the beginning 
of the session of 1888 he had to face the aloofness of 
a number of members who had accepted his leadership 
without enthusiasm, as merely a pis aller. * Their luke- 
warmness was not of long duration. From the out- 
set Laurier revealed a grasp of policy, a courage 

iA letter from an Ontario Liberal member, John Charlton, forecasting 
a gloomy future for a party with a French Catholic leader and with 
"machine politicians like J. D. Edgar" high in its councils, which became 
public, illustrated this attitude. 

348 



LEADER OF THE LIBERAL PARTY 

and firmness combined with prudence, tact, and unfail- 
ing good temper, a careful planning of parliamentary 
activities together with a readiness to let his associates 
share the work and the honours, a genuine individual 
interest in his followers, which stirred them to eager 
loyalty. At the close of the session they expressed 

unanimous, unqualified, and enthusiastic allegiance. 

t 

The new leader had established his right to lead. 




349 



CHAPTER VIII 

MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

A Canadian Stock-taking Political Discontent and Economic 
Stagnation Heroic Remedies Imperial Federation Annexation 
Independence Seeking New Markets An Imperial Zollverein 
Commercial Union with the United States Laurier's Attitude 
The Jesuits' Estates Diversion Macdonald and Mercier Mc- 
Carthy and the Dual-Language Question Blake and the Leader- 
ship The Canadian Pacific again in Politics The Election of 
1891 The Old Man, the Old Flag, and the Old Policy The 
Blake Postcript. 

WHEN Wilfrid Laurier assumed the leader- 
ship of the Liberal party, he found the 
country facing new issues and new phases 
of old issues. To follow a man like Edward Blake 
would in any 'case have called for every quality of 
leadership he possessed. When the situation was 
complicated by the emergence of difficult and thorny 
problems, charged with political dynamite and potent 
to sweep away old party boundaries, the test became 
as searching as could well be conceived. 

The ghost of Louis Kiel, though not exorcised, no 
longer walked nightly. Kiel lay in his grave; his Metis 
followers had gone back to their carts and their ploughs; 
the government had been put on its trial and had 
escaped punishment. The storm that had swep 
Quebec and Ontario died away. But when the wate 
of racial passion have been stirred to their depths, tt 
do not easily come to rest. In the Jesuits' Estates 

350 



r 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

controversy, in the demand for the abolition of French 
in the schools of Ontario and the legislature of the 
North- West, and later in the protracted struggle over 
the schools of Manitoba, the country and its political 
leaders had to face the aftermath of the storm. 

Nor was it merely questions of race and creed that 
called for prudent and courageous handling. The first 
term of Laurier's leadership and the first general 
election which followed were occupied still more absorb- 
ingly with the problem of Canada's trade and political 
connection with the United Kingdom and the United 
States. For the first time in the history of the Domin- 
ion, the issue of its national future and its relationship to 
outside powers, particularly to the two great English- 
speaking communities, became of wide and dominant 
popular interest. The question was not raised by party 
leaders. It grew out of the country's need, and found 
its first expression through men who had played little 
part in politics. The character and the ambitions of 
individual men had much to do with the form in which 
the issue arose and the solution which it received, but 
they did not create it. Given Canada's historical re- 
lations with the United Kingdom, her geographical con- 
nection with the United States, and the trend of her 
own political and industrial development after Con- 
federation, the rise of the issue was inevitable. 

In 1887 Canada had experienced twenty years of 
Confederation, and nearly ten of the national policy. 
What did the stock-taking show? 

Confederation was to bring national unity, to create 

351 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 
a common Canadian sentiment which would submerge 

.^^ . .,,! i rrua LJ*I ^>0i T~"n^~"~ """"** **^ Jfc ^"^^~* JJ '"' --.. - ^""^ 

provincial prejudices, end all hankering for union with 
the United States, and prepare the Dominion for a 
relationship of equality with the mother country. Had 
this unity developed? For the most part it was still a 
hope unrealized. True, the federal solution had re- 
moved some of the more contentious questions from the 
common parliament, but enough remained, or could 
be dragged back, to keep sectional jealousy aflame. 
True, there was no little growth of Canadian national 
sentiment, as the North- West rebellion gave opportu- 
nity for proving, and even in the Maritime provinces 
many men had become used to calling themselves Cana- 
dians, but it was doubtful whether this sentiment 
was strong enough to enable the Dominion to resist 
the separatist tendencies from within or the attraction 
of greater bodies from without. There was little 
provincial intercourse; in 1881, despite the building of 
the Intercolonial, there were not a thousand Ontarians 
in the Maritime provinces and there were actually fewer 
Maritime province men in Ontario than there had been 
in 1861. When a Nova Scotia' or New Brunswick 
lad sought wider fields, it was not to Toronto or Mont- 
real he turned, but to Boston or New York. 

Nova Scotia, despite increased federal subsidies 
which Nova Scotians regarded as belated instalments 
of bare justice and Ontario grudged as necessary bribes, 
was still unreconciled to having been forced into Con- 
federation. In May, 1886, William S. Fielding had 

352 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

moved a series of resolutions in the Nova Scotia legis- 
lature, pointing out how much the condition of the 
province, commercially *and financially, had changed 
for the worse, insisting that the objections which had 
been urged against union in 1867 still applied with 
greater force, and proposed secession from the Domin- 
ion, to form either a separate province or a maritime un- 
ion under the Crown. The resolutions carried by a vote 
of fifteen to seven and in the elections which followed 
the Fielding government was sustained by an over- 
whelming majority; curiously, a year later the Con- 
servatives won in the federal fight, giving Fielding a 
reason or excuse for going no further with his proposals. 
Ontario and Quebec were rent by a more bitter quarrel 
than any since the fifties, and the end was not yet. 
Quebec newspapers were still railing against the in- 
tolerance which had sent a lunatic (or a hero) to the 
scaffold, while in Ontario the "Mail" was threatening 
to smash Confederation into its original fragments 
rather than submit to French Catholic dictation. In the 
West, armed rebellion had broken out among the Metis 
and resentment against high tariffs and railway monop- 
olies was running high among the English-speaking 
farmers. The Manitoba farmer bore fifteen cents a 
bushel handicap as compared with his Minnesota neigh- 
bour in the cost of shipping wheat to Liverpool; local 
rates on coal and lumber and general merchandise were 
from two to four times as high as for equal distances 
in the Eastern provinces, and the West held, not climate 

353 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

or geography, but Macdonald and Van Home and the 
policy of artificial restriction of trade and trade chan- 
nels to blame. 

At Confederation it had been hoped that a new stage 
and new players would bring higher political standards. 
The hard reality was the Canada of gerrymanders and 
Red Parlour funds, a low and stagnant level of political 
methods that affected both parties and had its source 
in the popular indifference that soon forgot Pacific 
scandals. Nor had Canada taken the position in the 
Empire and among the nations of the world that had 
been hoped. In Great Britain she was considered a 
colony which had ceased to fulfil the natural functions 
of a colony and would some day go the way of all col- 
onies, though in some quarters there was a reviving 
interest and a belief that Britain's overseas possessions 
would still prove serviceable. In the United States, 
where Canada had been given a thought at all, she had 
been considered an Arctic fringe, at the moment merely 
a pawn in Britain's hands, but destined some day to 
knock for admission to the Union. Latterly, friction 
over the Northeastern fisheries had made her better 
if not more favourably known. Elsewhere, Canada 
was about as well known as Spitzbergen or Kamschatka 
to the outside world to-day. 

In his first public address after his election to the 
leadership, at a political picnic held at Somerset, in 
the county of Megantic, on August 2, 1887, ILaurier 
emphasized the failure to attain national unity, and 
laid the blame at the government's door. National 

354 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

unity, he insisted, must be every patriot's aim, and not 
least the aim of every French-Canadian: 

French-Canadians, I ask you one thing, that, while remem- 
bering that I, a French-Canadian, have been elected leader 
of the Liberal party of Canada, you will not lose sight of 
the fact that the limits of our common country are not con- 
fined to the province of Quebec, but that they extend to all 
the territory of Canada, and that our country is wherever 
the British flag waves in America. I ask you to remember 
this in order to remind you that your duty is simply and 
above all to be Canadians. To be Canadians! That was 
the object of Confederation in the intention of its authors; 
the aim and end of Confederation was to bring the different 
races closer together, to soften the asperities of their mutual 

^ * * fc **~** - *****^*"^**o*^*fc*lp*fcW*MB""B<******^ 

relations and to connect the scattered groups of British 
subjects. 

Unfortunately this aim had not been attained: 

This was the programme twenty years ago. But are the 
divisions ended? The truth is that after twenty years' trial 
of the system, the Maritime provinces submit to Confederation, 
but do not love it. The province of Manitoba is in open 
revolt against the Dominion government, gentlemen, not in 
armed revolt, as in the revolt of the half-breeds, but in legal 
revolt. The province of Nova Scotia demands its separa- 
tion from the Confederation. In fact, carry your gaze from 
east to west and from north to south and everywhere the 
prevailing feeling will be found to be one of unrest and un- 
easiness, of discontent and irritation. 

. . . The fault rests with the men who have governed us, 
the fault rests with the men who, instead of governing accord- 
ing to the spirit of our institutions, have disregarded the 
principle of iQcaL-Ubejties and local interests, the recognition 
of which is the very basis^ of our constitution. ... In a 
country like ours, with a heterogeneou?*^population, ... a 
federative union is tne only one that can secure civil and 

355 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

political liberty. . . . Legislative separation is the most 
powerful factor in national unity. . . . Unfortunately the 
constitution has placed in the hands of the government a 
terrible weapon which it has used, when and how it pleased, 
to assail the local liberties of the provinces, . . . the veto 
power, which is by far the most arbitrary weapon with which 
tyranny has ever armed a federal government. 

If Confederation had not brought national unity 
or higher political standards or a place in the world's 
regard, had the National Policy given the economic 
benefits its sponsors had promised? The trial had been 
shorter, but the evidence of failure was almost equally 
strong. 

Protection was to assure prosperity to the manu- 
facturer, bring home markets to the farmer, and force 
the lowering of the United States tariff wall "a rec- 
iprocity of trade through a reciprocity of tariffs." 
There had been an outburst of prosperity, with the 
revival of good times the world over in 1880, and the 
impulse to trade that came with the building of the 
Canadian Pacific and the fitting out of the settlers and 
speculators who followed in its wake. But now the 
reaction had come. The days of construction, with 
millions to fling, were over, and the penny-counting 
days of operating had succeeded. Of the settlers who 
had poured into the West, a great proportion proved 
merely tourists; frost, drought, grasshoppers, high rail- 
way rates, low wheat prices, the prospect of hard work, 
drove them east or south. Corner lots in mushroom 
cities relapsed into prairie, and Eastern shareholders 
in colonization companies found there was many a wait 

356 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

between the prospectus and the settler. For a time 
protection had encouraged the building and expansion 
of Eastern factories, notably in the textile, sugar, and 
iron and steel industries, but with the home market 
stagnant and the market of the United States still 
barred, this expansion led to over-production, the clos- 
ing down of the weaker plants, and constant cries for 
a larger dose of the stimulant. The farmer's home 
markets shared the same restriction; in the British 
market, he faced the world's competition; from the Unit- 
ed States he was still shut out. The club of retaliation 
had been no more successful than the olive branch of low 
tariffs in inducing the United States to mend its ways. 

The statistics of trade, railway traffic, bank deposits, 
revealed the stagnation or snail-like progress of the 
country. But the most convincing and most alarming 
evidence was furnished by the slow growth of popula- 
tion at home and the swelling exodus to the Uuited 
States. Between 1851 and 1861 the province of Canada 
had grown over six hundred thousand, and between 1871 
and 1881 the Dominion nearly seven hundred thousand, 
but between 1881 and 1891 by a bare half-million. 
Between 1881 and 1891 the population of Manitoba 
and the North- West grew from 120,000 to 250,000, but 
Dakota alone in the same period had leaped from 135,- 
000 to 510,000. Canadians flocked to the United 
States, Maritime-province men to Boston, French- Can- 
adians to the mill towns of New England, Ontario men 
to the border cities and Dakota farms ; contrary to cur- 
rent belief, over half of these emigrants sought the f arm, 

357 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

not the city. Canada with its four million people and 
its vast acres had sent more of its sons to the building of 
the republic than England with its thirty millions and its 
crowded land. There were virtually as many Canadian 
doctors, nurses, architects, bartenders, actors, engineers, 
cotton-mill operatives, lumbermen, in the United States 
as in Canada itself. Counting native-born, the children 
of two native-born parents and half the children claim- 
ing one Canadian parent, there were in the United 
States in 1890 one and a half-million Canadians, or 
over one-third the home population. Never in history, 
save perhaps from crowded and misgoverned Ireland, 
had there been such an exodus from one country to 
another. "In literal fashion," declared Sir Richard 1 
Cartwright, whose scriptures, according to Nicholas 
Flood Davin, began with Exodus and ended with 
[Lamentations, "the United States are becoming liter- 
ally flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood. I know 
whole counties, I know great regions in Canada where 
you cannot find one single solitary Canadian family 
which has not a son or a daughter or a brother or a 
sister or some near and dear relative now inhabiting 
the United States." 

Whence could escape be found from national dis- 
union and economic stagnation? Desperate conditions 
called for drastic remedies. Canada had failed to find 
salvation in her own resources. Why not merge her 
political or her industrial fortunes with one or the other 
of the greater English-speaking peoples? Imperial 
federation and imperial preferential trade, political 

358 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

union and commercial union with the United States^ * 
all found their eager advocates. 

The swing to closer relations with Great Britain came 
first, though it did not in this period bulk so large. A 
new stage was opening in the transformation of the 
British Empire. In early days the colonies had been 
regarded as possessions of the mother country, markets 
for its wares, sources of the raw materials required, to 
be defended against other colony-hungry powers and to 
be controlled by British governors. Then had come 
the era of emancipation. The growth of the colonies 
in numbers and self-confidence had coincided with the 
decay in Britain of the belief that protection at home 
and monopoly of colonial trade brought profit. Britain 
abandoned trade monopoly and political control to- 
gether. The colonies took over a steadily increasing 
share of the management of their own affairs. In 
Britain, most men expected the movement would con- 
tinue until complete independence was reached. But 
in the colonies the force of habit, inherited loyalties, 
the renewal of ties by fresh immigration, the desire 
for military aid, the lack of any precipitating crisis, 
brought content with British connection. Then after 
the Franco-Prussian War the tide turned once more. 
The development of military ambitions and tariff wars 
on the Continent, the entrance of European powers 
upon the race for overseas possessions in which Britain 
had long been without a rival, revived the imperial 
spirit in Britain. A movement began to avert the drift 
to independence and instead to link the colonies in closer 

359 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

union. The new tendencies found expression in the 
activities of the Imperial Federation League. Its 
chief purpose was to secure from the colonies military 
support for British policies. To reconcile them to this 
obligation, they were to be given representation in a 
parliament in London to which control over the 
Empire's common affairs, whatever they might be, 
would be entrusted. The league was organized in 
London in 1884, with Hon. W. H. Forster and Lord 
Rosebery as leading spirits. Branches were established 
in Canada and Australia and a vigorous campaign of 
popular education begun. 

At first imperial federation made a strong appeal 
in Canada. The desire to retain British connections 
was strong, and yet men were increasingly discontented 
with the subordinate part which Canada still played in 
external affairs. Representation in a common parlia- 
ment in London seemed to open a way out. Then, as 
the attempt was made to crystallize the perorations in 
a working plan, difficulties which proved insuperable 
came to light. How was the parliament or council to be 
constituted? What of India's position? Would the 
colonies have to give up old powers as well as secure 
new ones? Would taxation with fractional representa- 
tion prove acceptable? Many men keenly interested 
in public affairs and fired with a burning pride in the 
memories and achievements of the British race Prin- 
cipal Grant, Colonel Denison, D'Alton McCarthy 
had faith that the questions could be answered, given 
time and good-will. But no party leader, closer in 

360 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

touch with realities, was convinced. Macdonald held 
parliamentary federation "an idle dream"; "Canada 
would never consent to be taxed by a central body sit- 
ting at London, in which she would have practically 
no voice." Blake, who had been one of the first to 
welcome the proposal as an outlet from colonial de- 
pendence, became convinced of its futility. "A quarter 
of a century past," he declared in the British House of 
Commons in 1900, "I dreamed the dream of imperial 
parliamentary federation, but many years ago I came 
to the conclusion that we had passed the turning that 
could lead to that terminus, if ever, indeed, there was 
a practicable road." 

While some were looking to London for salvation, 
others looked to Washington. The agitation for closer 
political union with the older branch of the English- 
speaking peoples provoked a counter-agitation for 
political union with the younger branch. The chief 
supporter of annexation was Goldwin Smith, an Oxford 
Don who, after a brief residence in the United States, 
had made Toronto his home and had undertaken the 
double task of developing literary standards in Canada 
and of convincing the Canadian people of the opportu- 
nity that awaited them of becoming the Scotland of 
North America. For a time he was a voice crying in 
the wilderness. Then despair of national unity, com- 
mercial depression, the desire to find a way out of the 
incessant fishery and border conflicts with the United 
States, hostility to the European entanglements which 
the imperialists proposed, brought converts. There 

361 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

were more advocates of annexation in Canada in the 
decade from 1886 to 1896 than at any other time before 
or since, but even so they remained a small if vigorous 
minority, considered not merely traitorous but 
scarcely even respectable. British sympathies, French- 
Canadian preference for the status quo, the nascent 
Canadian spirit, antagonisms traditional since United 
Empire Loyalist days and the War of 1812, proved 
forces too great to overcome. 

It was not surprising that the constant and vigorous 
advocacy of the merjging^T]]Cg^dg^l^ntity in^ 
British or American union provoked a movement in 
favour of independence. Many Canadians had con- 
sidered Confederation only a first step toward separa- 
tion. In the early seventies Gait and McDougall had 
urged that only through independence could respon- 
sibility be developed and Canada, instead of a hostage 
for Britain's submissive conduct, become a link of 
friendship and ensurer of peace between Britain and 
the United States. But the time was not ripe, and 
much of the vague nationalist feeling was diverted into 
economic rather than political channels when the 
national policy struck out for industrial independence. 
Now the sentiment revived. If a change in Canada's 
political status was to be made, why not take the coura- 
geous and clear-cut solution of independence? 

Laurier was never a man to raise questions before 
they were ripe. He did not believe that any far- 
reaching* change was imminent or desirable, but he 
did believe that when a change came it should and would 

362 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

be toward independence. Speaking on the reciprocity 
issue in the House of Commons in March, 1888, he 
declared : 

It was our hope at one time to make this country a nation." 
It is our hope yet. ["Hear, hear!"] I hail that sentiment 
with joy, with unbounded joy, all the more that it is al- 
together unforeseen. I had expected, from the talk we have 
heard from these gentlemen on the other side of the House, 
that they expected that this country would forever and for- 
ever remain a colony : I see now that they have higher aspira- 
tions, and I give them credit for that. Colonies are destined 
to become nations, as it is the destiny of a child to become 
a man. No one, even on the other side, will assume that this 
country, which will some day number a larger population than 
Great Britain, is forever to remain in its present political re- 
lation with Great Britain. The time is coming when the 
present relations of Great Britain and Canada must either be- 
come closer or be severed altogether. ... If ever and when- 
ever Canada chooses, to use the language of Lord Palmerston, 
to stand by herself, the separation will take place not only 
in peace but in friendship and in love, as the son leaves the 
house of his father to become himself the father of a family. 
But this is not the question of to-day. 

Two years later, at a banquet in the Club National 
at Montreal, in celebration of Mercier's electoral victory, 
he rebuked a little clique that was talking of "the 
creation of a French-speaking republic on the banks 
of the St. Lawrence," and continued: 

When I say that I am not one of those who wish for the 
breaking up of Confederation, and favour the creation of 
little principalities in our midst, I do not mean to say that we 
should always remain a colony. On the contrary, the day is 
coming when this country will have to take its place among the 

363 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

nations of the earth, but I do not want to see my country's 
independence attained through the hostility of one race to the 
others'. I do not want my country's independence to be con- 
ceived in the blood of civil war. I want my country's in- 
dependence to be reached through the normal and regular 
progress of all the elements of its population toward the 
realization of a common aspiration. 

Again in 1892, in supporting a resolution of D' Alton 
McCarthy in favour of the appointment of a Canadian 
representative at Washington, which the government 
was unwilling to accept in full, he renewed his profession 
of faith in independence as the ultimate destiny of Can- 
ada: 

The honourable gentleman [Charles Tupper] said there was 
no precedent for this motion, and nothing similar in the his- 
tory of nations. I am sure that he is right . . . but at the 
same time there has been no instance in the history of nations 
of a. colony occupying toward the mother country the position 
that Canada occupies toward Great Britain. Canada has 
been the first colony in the world to obtain the right of self- 
government, and the present motion is simply a development of 
the policy adopted fifty years ago when we claimed and ob- 
tained the right to govern ourselves. . . . The motion is pro- 
posed by an honourable gentleman, whose views, as to the fu- 
ture of Canada, are well known to be in favour of a closer re- 
lation with Great Britain than we now have. The motion is 
supported by myself, and it is known that I do not believe that 
the present condition of things will endure forever. The 
present relations between us and Great Britain must become 
either closer or looser. My opinion is that in the course of 
time the relations of Canada with Great Britain must cease, 
as the relations of colonies with the mother country do cease, 
by independence, just as a child becomes a man. There are 
the views I hold, not in regard to the present or actual policy, 
but as to the future of the country. 

364 



A 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

The sentiment in favour of eventual independence 
was strongest in the Liberal ranks. The Liberal party 
had fought for and achieved self-government in home 
affairs. It had urged, under Blake and Mackenzie, 
Canada's claim to make her own commercial treaties. 
Now the policy of complete independence found much 
support within its ranks. The Young Liberals' Club 
in Toronto in 1889 and 1890 leaned strongly in that 
direction. The "Globe" urged it repeatedly. Irritated 
by failure of British support in the Atlantic fisheries 
dispute, the "Globe" declared in February, 1888: 

So long as the Canadian people remain unwilling to assume 
the responsibility of independent nationality, so long must they 
expect to be despoiled by the United States with British con- 
sent and aid. Canada is far worse off in dealing with the 
United States than she would be if independent. . . . The 
truth is that the connection seriously embarrasses England 
and seriously embarrasses and injures Canada. So long as 
we insist upon retaining it, we cannot justly complain of 
suffering for the indulgence in a noble loyalty to a country 
five-sixths of us never saw. 

Commenting on an independence speech of Malcolm 
Cameron, in December, 1889, it declared: "The spirit 
of independence is certainly moving throughout the 
land. . . . Mr. Mowat, though deeply devoted to 
British connection, stated the other day at Woodstock 
that he hoped a change, if one must come, would be to 
independence instead of annexation." "The colonial 
status," it insisted a month later, "is being rapidly out- 
grown. Ultimate independence seems so reasonable 
a destiny for the Dominion that very many of the older 

365 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

generation of Canadians unite heartily with the young 
men in its advocacy." 

Still more significant was the development in this 
period of the conception of independence without 
separation, as a final goal or a next step, the conversion 
of the Empire into a league of equal states linked only 
by allegiance to a common Crown. Sir John Mac- 
donald, at Confederation, had foreshadowed the growth 
of the colonies into "auxiliary kingdoms," but it was 
in the Liberal ranks that the idea found its freest 
expression. Mr. J. D. Edgar in 1885 and Sir Richard 
Cartwright in 1887 urged that the Queen was to be 
regarded as Queen of Canada, and that a new equality 
would follow that recognition. The "Globe" developed 
the idea, and alternating with expressions of opinion 
in favour of unqualified independence of the older type, 
its columns presented with remarkable insight and, so 
far as is known, for the first time in any detail, that 
conception of the Empire as a league of equal states 
which it has been the task of these later years to make 
a reality. 1 

i "Mr. Cattanach says that Canadians have no alternative but Imperial 
Federation or Annexation. We have a third and better alternative and 
we say that complete independence is perfectly consistent with British 
connection. Let Her Majesty take the title of Queen of Canada, let 
her be advised directly by her Canadian Ministers, and Canada will be 
as independent as England, which is sufficiently independent for any 
country, without being separated from England, without breaking the 
Canadian tradition, and with perfect satisfaction to the sentiments of 
all Canadians and Englishmen who are not mainly concerned to keep this 
country subordinate to Downing Street." "Globe," Feb. 27, 1889. 

"The Globe has often propounded as an alternative project to imperial 
federation, and a vastly better one, the abolition of the few legislative 
disabilities that now pertain to the colonies, and the formation of an 
international league under the Old Crown between the Mother Country 
and the various sovereign powers which such an abolition would create. 

366 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

None of these projects of political change reached 
the stage of practical action. Imperial federation had 
behind it the most fervent and wide-spread sentiment, 
but the nebulous vagueness of the schemes of its ad- 
vocates, the conflict within the movement between those 
who stressed imperial defence and those who stressed 
imperial trade, and the impossibility of reconciling any 
form of imperial centralization with nationalist spirit, 
kept it still an aspiration. Annexation had behind 
it alluring and immediate prospects of individual gain 
and national security, but it ran hopelessly counter to 
deep traditions, prejudices, loyalties, which were of 
the very soul of the people. Toward independence the 
country moved with every increase of strength and con- 
fidence, but as yet any formal programme of separation 
was premature and won little assent. Imperial fed- 
eration and annexation neutralized each other, eacH 
saved the country from the other, permitting all the 
while the growth of a national spirit which would not 
seek absorption in either greater branch of the English- 
speaking peoples. 

The question of political status was of the morrow; 
the questions of trade, markets, profits, were of the 
day. Reaction from the prosperity which had gleamed 

Such a league, we have pointed out, while amply satisfying all the con- 
siderations of sentiment which are urged in favour of British connection, 
would at the same time save the colonies from the imperial and European 
complications in which Imperial Federation would involve us. Canada, 
for iiistance, under such an alliance, though she might still acknowledge 
the sovereignty of the Queen, could not be involved in England's quarrels 
without her o\*n consent, and this consent any nation engaged in a war 
with England would be scrupulously careful to give her no reason to 
cease to withhold." "Globe," Feb. 20, 1890. 

367 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

in Canada since 1880 forced the issue of larger markets 
to the front. 

The United Kingdom did not appear to offer a new 
outlet. Its markets were already free to Canada, but 
they were also free to the rest of the world. There 
was little prospect of ousting the United States, Rus- 
sia, Australia, from their share in Britain's imports. 
Only if Britain could be induced to abandon free trade, 
to return to her old policy of protection with its in- 
cidental possibilities of colonial preference, to seek 
once more to build up a self-contained empire, could 
special favour come. Of that few had hope. In 
England a rare fair-trader called for high tariffs and 
retaliation, but the overwhelming voice of the country 
agreed with Disraeli that protection was not only dead 
but damned. In Canada, the memory of old preferen- 
tial days had lingered longer; for a brief moment, 
in the early days of the N. P., when English traders 
were throwing stones at his industrial conservatories, 
Macdonald thought of urging England, too, to build 
glass houses, but Disraeli's fall brought his plans to 
grief. In imperial federation circles, the possibility 
of cementing the Empire by customs privileges kept 
recurring, but the conviction that rightly or wrongly 
England would stick to free trade for generations to 
come, robbed the project of any practical appeal. It 
was chiefly as a rhetorical alternative to closer trade 
relations with the United States that imperial prefer- 
ence or an imperial Zollverein was urged. 

For it was the question lof access to the markets of 

368 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

the United States that dominated Canadian politics 
in these years. Those markets had always bulked large 
on Canada's horizon. For three thousand miles her 
borders marched with those of the most prosperous 
and rapidly expanding country in the world. Even 
though many of the products of the two countries were 
the same, in large part each complemented the other 
and even where both had a surplus, the accidents of 
geography made it more convenient for Nova Scotia to 
market its coal in New England and for Pennsylvania 
to fill the bins of Ontario. The United States was 
Canada's "natural market." But human nature was 
also natural, and a leaning to protection seemed part 
of the inheritance from Adam. Tariff walls had long 
hampered, though they could not wholly block, the 
movements of trade. In the reciprocity period, from 
1854 to 1866, a wide breach had been made, and natural 
products were exchanged freely to mutual advantage. 
Then the bitterness of civil war antagonisms had led 
the United States to bang, bar, and bolt the door. 
Canada had done her best to open it again. Gait and 
Rose, Macdonald and Brown, Grit and Tory, had gone 
more than half-way to meet the United States, but had 
gone in vain. The United States was prosperous, con- 
tent, indifferent. Protectionist feeling was strong. 
Local interests which might be prejudiced were firmly 
entrenched. The division of authority between Pres- 
ident and Congress made negotiation difficult and 
ratification a gamble. 

Now it appeared that an opening had come. In 

369 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

Canada, depression was giving a new insistence to the 
longing 'of farmers, miners, lumbermen, for open 
markets. For the first time since the Civil War, the 
professedly low-tariff party in the United States held 
executive power. Its manufacturers were beginning 
to think of finding new outlets. Yet it was doubtful 
whether the United States could be brought to accede 
to any limited measure of reciprocity. The more 
sweeping policy of a North American Zollverein might 
perhaps strike the republic's imagination. 

For thirty years, proposals for a North American 
Zollverein, or commercial union, had found distin- 
guished but sporadic backing in both the United States 
and Canada. This project involved absolute free trade 
between the United States and Canada, with a common 
tariff, arranged by joint agreement, against the outside 
world, and probably a pooling of customs dues; recip- 
rocal free use of the fisheries might be made an incident. 
The proposal had never found wide or enduring favour. 
Now the time and the man had come. Erastus Wiman, 
a Canadian business man who had found prosperity 
in New York, took the idea from an American capital- 
ist interested in Canadian ores, Samuel Ritchie, and 
his legal adviser, Hezekiah Butterworth, then a member 
of Congress. Wiman's intimate acquaintance with 
business conditions in both countries, the opportunities 
of propaganda afforded by his interests in commercial- 
credit agencies and telegraph companies, and his organ- 
izing capacity enabled him to force the proposal to the 
front. Supported or hampered by the co-operation of 

370 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

Goldwin Smith, and finding a surprisingly quick re- 
sponse in farming and mining and lumbering circles, 
Wiman carried the torch through Ontario in the summer 
of 1887. Farmers' institute after farmers' institute 
endorsed his proposals, and it soon became apparent 
that a new issue had entered Canadian politics. 

The power of the press in selecting, shaping, and 
forcing an issue was never more clearly displayed in 
Canada than in the campaign that followed. Ontario 
was the centre of the movement. For a time its for- 
tunes rose and fell with the attitude of the Toronto 
"Mail." Founded in 1872 as a Conservative organ, 
"to smite the Grits under the fifth rib every morning," 
as it once avowed, the "Mail" had made this duty a 
pleasure. For years it had reflected the party will 
without question. Then after the Riel episode it be- 
gan to emphasize two issues, commercial union with 
the United States and hostility to French-Canadian 
and hierarchical domination, without considering too 
closely how they would affect the interests of the party. 
In a measure history was repeating itself. In 1849 
the advocates of political union with the United States 
were recruited chiefly from the Tories, who had been 
hit in their pride by the rise of French-Canadian rebels 
to power and in their pocket by Britain's change of 
fiscal policy; the annexationists of '49 were determined 
to find new markets at any cost and to remain English 
even if they had to cease to be British. Now) the 
journal which had led the attack on Quebec for its 
defence of Riel and had talked of smashing Con- 

371 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

federation into its original fragments, found in com- 
mercial union with the United States a panacea alike 
for French-Canadian domination and for business 
stagnation. 

The "Mail's" policy was shaped in no small measure 
by its chief editorial writer, Edward Farrer. Farrer 
was the most extraordinary figure in Canadian journal- 
ism. A brilliant Irishman of uncertain antecedents, 
educated for the priesthood but forced by growing dis- 
belief to forego the Church's service, he had found 
his destiny, after some business adventures, in news- 
paper work in Canada. He combined a keen interest 
in political and economic questions with unwearied zeal 
in investigation and most convincing powers of ex- 
position. His curious flexibility, his powers of secre- 
tiveness, his loyalty after a fashion, made him capable 
on occasion of editing a morning newspaper of one 
political stripe and an evening newspaper of the con- 
trary colour, in the same city, fulminating in turn 
against the futilities of his esteemed contemporary, and 
led in later years to his being entrusted by politicians 
on both sides with commissions of discreet inquiry with- 
out ever betraying a confidence. Yet he was a man of 
real convictions of which hostility to the presumption 
of the hierarchy and a belief in the inevitableness of 
Canada's political union with the United States were 
foremost. Farrer's lucid, informing, business-like edi- 
torials in the "Mail" were the most important factors 
in the growth of commercial union sentiment in 1887. 

The Toronto "Globe," still edited by John Cameron, 

372 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

was not the oracle it had been in George Brown's day, 
but it was still a power. Its attitude on the trade 
issue wavered. During the elections of 1887 it had 
endorsed Blake's assurances that the tariff was out of 
politics. When Wiman and the "Mail" thrust com- 
mercial union forward, the "Globe" first rebuked its 
contemporary for assuming that sentimental consid- 
erations could be ignored, then on further inquiry 
found that national and imperial sentiment would be 
advanced rather than hampered by commercial union. 
Party leaders were less responsive to the new pro- 
posals. The Conservative party, champions of pro- 
tection and already in control of the administration, 
were least inclined to any change. Yet even Conserv- 
ative leaders recognized that some concession must be 
made. Tupper and Foster, faced with low-tariff 
sentiment in the Maritime provinces, were more open 
to conviction than Macdonald or Langevin, closely 
leagued with Red Parlour groups of protected manu- 
facturers in Ontario and Quebec. In 1887 the govern- 
ment, with Tupper chiefly urging, tried the traditional 
policy of linking fisheries and trade concessions. At 
the suggestion of Wiman, Tupper visited Washington 
and conferred with Thomas F. Bayard, Cleveland's 
Secretary of State, thus incidentally breaking down the 
diplomatic convention which made conversation between 
Ottawa and Washington a leisurely triangular process, 
Canadian ministers through the governor-general com- 
municating with the Colonial Secretary hi London, 
who took up the matter with the Foreign Office, which 

373 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

gave instructions to the British minister in Washington, 
;who interviewed the State Department, and then began 
to wind up the coil again. Bayard displayed a states- 
manlike breadth and a grasp of the issues involved 
which had been rare at Washington. A commission, 
consisting of Sir Lionel Sackville-West, British min- 
ister at Washington, Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, and Sir 
Charles Tupper, representing the British and Canadian 
governments, and James B. Angell and W. L. Putnam 
for the United States, met at Washington in the summer 
of 1887. Tupper at once proposed a measure of trade 
reciprocity, later described as "an unrestricted offer 
of reciprocity," in return for such reciprocity in fishing 
rights as had been enjoyed under the Treaty of Wash- 
ington, but the American commissioners declined to 
purchase immunity from what they deemed hostile and 
imneighbourly aggression by trade concessions. A 
treaty providing a fair settlement of the fisheries dis- 
pute was drafted, but was killed by the obstinacy of 
the United States Senate. A modus Vivendi by which 
Canada conceded port rights on payment of a license fee 
thereupon went into force; its renewal from year to 
year eased the tension. The trade issue remained. 

The Liberals were expected to be more sympathetic. 
As the party in opposition, new causes would make 
more appeal to them than to the defenders of the 
status quo. They had also more leaning toward freer 
trade. True, there were distinctly protectionist strains 
in the party, particularly in the Quebec representation, 
and the party attitude as a whole for twenty years 

374 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

had been that of moderate or incidental protection. 
Yet they included, particularly among those members 
closely in touch with British movements, a minority 
who denounced protection as an economic fallacy and 
a source of political corruption. There were many 
signs of a drift toward commercial union in the Liberal 
ranks, when the new leader made his first official pro- 
nouncement at Somerset. 

Mr. Laurier declared that the country was discon- 
tented and disillusioned, and he agreed that protection 
had not fulfilled its glowing promises. Yet he warned 
his followers against precipitate adoption of the first 
alternative proposed : 

The reaction has come, gentlemen; it began in the province 
of Ontario ; it has not stopped within moderate bounds ; on 
the contrary it has gone to extremes, and at this very hourv 
the great majority of the farmers of Ontario are clamouring 
for commercial union with the United States, that is to say, 
the suppression of all customs duties between the two coun- 
tries. . . . We know that there is to-day in the United States 
a group of men determined upon giving us commercial 
union. ... If I am asked at present for my own opinion, I 
may say that for my part I am not ready to declare that 
commercial union is an acceptable idea. I am not ready, for 
my part, to state that commercial union should be adopted 
at the present moment. 

But though not prepared to endorse commercial 
union, Mr. Laurier was unhesitatingly in favour of 
closer and friendlier trade relations with the United 
States: "At the bottom of the commercial union idea, 
badly defined, was the conviction of the Canadian people 
that any kind of reciprocity with the people of the 

375 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

United States would be to the advantage of the people 
of Canada." Reciprocity had always been a Liberal 
goal. The government had made futile attempts to 
force reciprocity by a retaliatory customs and fisheries 
policy. "I may say and it is my actual policy that 
the time has come to abandon the policy of retaliation 
followed thus far by the Canadian government, to show 
the American people that we are brothers, and to hold 
out our hands to them, with a due regard for the duties 
we owe to our mother country." 

As to "commercial union with Great Britain, which 
has been suggested as an alternative to commercial 
union with the United States," he would say the same 
thing, "that the project was hazy and indefinite: 
certainly if it were realizable, and all our interests were 
protected, I would accept a commercial treaty of that 
nature." A more immediate possibility would be com- 
mercial treaties with other parts of the Empire: what 
would be easier than to have a commercial treaty with 
the Australian continent? "I believe that idea is good 
and fair and that it will eventually triumph." 

If the new leader stood aloof, some of the old lieu- 
tenants were prepared to rush in. Sir Richard Cart- 
wright, speaking in October at Ingersoll, flatly declared 
for commercial union. No other way of escape seemed 
possible. Granted, there was a risk, but it was a choice 
of risks: 

r 

I have no hesitation in saying frankly that if the United 
States are willing to deal with us on equitable terms the ad- 
vantages to both countries, and especially to us, are so great 

376 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

that scarcely any sacrifice is too severe to secure them. I am 
as averse as any man can be to annexation or to resign our 
political independence, but I cannot shut my eyes to the facts. 
We have greatly misused our advantages, we have been foolish 
in our expenditures, we have no means of satisfying the just 
demands of large portions of the Dominion, except through 
such an arrangement as commercial union. In the present 
temper of Manitoba and the Maritime provinces, any failure 
or refusal to secure free trade with the United States is much 
more likely to bring about just such a political crisis as these 
parties affect to dread than even the very closest commercial 
connection that can be conceived. 

John Charlton took the same stand. Mills showed 
sympathy with it. Lesser lights followed. 

In Ontario, and on a trade issue, Cartwright as yet 
carried more weight in the Liberal party than Laurier. 
Yet the majority of the party preferred the new leaders 
more cautious policy. James D. Edgar contributed 
materially to this conclusion by a series of open letters 
to Mr. Wiman, in which he urged that abolition of the 
custom-houses along the border was not essential to 
ensure a very wide, even an unrestricted measure of 
reciprocity; neither in 1854, nor in Brown's treaty of 
1874, which provided for a much greater range of free 
commodities, were uniform tariffs on the coast or the 
abolition of tariffs along the border proposed. A 
declaration from the interprovincial conference which 
met in Quebec in the same month definitely marked out 
unrestricted reciprocity rather than commercial union 
as the Liberal policy. The conference, which comprised 
representatives from the Liberal administrations of 
Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward 

377 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

Island, of the coalition government in New Brunswick, 
and the Conservative government of Manitoba, unani- 
mously adopted a resolution to the effect that un- 
restricted reciprocity would be of advantage to all the 
provinces of the Dominion, would strengthen rather 
than weaken British connection, and, with the settle- 
ment of the fisheries dispute, would ease the strain in 
the relations between the mother country and the United 
States. 

When parliament met in 1888, the trade question 
overshadowed all other issues. A Liberal caucus was 
called, to define the party's attitude. 'Commercial 
union had its vigorous advocates, but they were in a 
small minority. The great majority were not prepared 
to risk the experiment of joint tariffs. Yet the minor- 
ity were strong enough to secure a very sweeping phras- 
ing in the reciprocity resolution which Sir Richard Cart- 
wright moved on March 14. He demanded no less 
than complete free trade between the United States 
and Canada in all manufactured and natural products 
of the two countries. In a powerful speech Cartwright 
deplored the slow growth of Canada, demonstrated that 
the United States was her natural and incomparable 
market, insisted that this market could not be secured 
save on generous and sweeping terms of reciprocity, 
and met charges of disloyalty to Britain by asserting 
that Canada's chief mission was to reconcile Britain 
and the United States and denying that in any case 
Canada owed England more than Christian forgive-? 
ness for the blunders of her diplomats. 

378 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

He was well supported. Louis H. Davies analyzed 
the government's policy; John Charlton surveyed in 
detail the possibilities of trade with the republic; Alfred 
Jones exposed the failure of protection to build up inter- 
provincial trade; William Paterson argued that legit- 
imate manufacturing interests would gain, not lose; 
David Mills insisted that the failure of the N. P. after 
a ten-year trial called for a change; William Mulock 
emphasized the importance of geography in determin- 
ing world trade and the precedent England had set 
of putting her own interests first. They did not have 
matters their own way. Thomas White attacked 
Liberal inconsistencies and stressed the revenue dif- 
ficulty; George Foster contended that the physical 
barriers to Canadian unity were merely opportunities 
for calling forth a people's effort; Charles Tupper 
insisted that the United States was not prepared to 
trade on fair terms; J. A. Chapleau found Canada 
abounding in prosperity, and the minor prophets 
drummed on disloyalty and direct taxation. 

The debate had dragged on for more than two weeks, 
when Mr. Laurier took part. He declared that the 
National Policy had failed to force reciprocity, had 
failed to build up interprovincial trade, had failed to de- 
velop the promised home market. Modern conditions 
of large-scale production made it imperative to broaden 
markets in order to reduce overhead and lessen costs, 
If the interests of farmers and of manufacturers clashed, 
he would stand by the basic and essential industry. 
But their interests did not necessarily clash; manu- 

379 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

facturers with brains and energy would, like the 
farmers, gain from the wider outlet. As to the effect 
upon England, while considerations of sentiment had 
given him much concern ;./" while with all my soul I 
say, let my tongue adhere to the roof of my mouth if 
it were ever to speak an unkind word of England," yet 
this was a question of duty not of sentiment : "if I have 
to choose between the duty I owe to England and the 
duty I owe to my native land, I stand by my native 
land. ... It is quite possible that John Bull will 
grumble, but in his grumbling there will be as much 
pride as anger, and John Bull will feel flattered if 
there is an offspring of his so much like the old gentle- 
man that he will not lose any occasion to turn an honest 

/ 
penny." He would like to be able to make a similar 

bargain with England, but given England's free-trade 
policy, that was out of the question. It might be that 
the resolution would be defeated, but the cause would 
go on. Giving even to a tariff issue a touch of imag- 
ination, Laurier concluded: 

We are to-day in the last days of a long and severe 
winter. . . . Nature, which is now torpid and inert, will 
awaken in a few days under the penetrating influence of a 
warmer sun, and the great river at the foot of the cliff on 
which we stand, now imprisoned in the close embrace of frost, 
will throw off her shackles and roll unfettered and free toward 
the sea. So sure as this will happen, I say that under the 
penetrating influence of discussion, of better feelings on both 
sides of the line, the hostility which now stains our long frontier 
will disappear, the barriers which now obstruct trade will be 
burst open, and trade will pour in along all the avenues from 

380 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

the north to the south and from the south to the north, free, 
untrammelled and no longer stained by the hues of hostility. 

When on April 9 the debate ended, the government 
was sustained by its full majority 124 to 67. But 
the Opposition had put its case. In the three years 
before the next election it could drive it home. The 
river would roll to the sea. But unfortunately for 
their forecasts, there proved to be many an eddy and 
cross current. Before the year was out, the good ship 
Reciprocity was making heavy weather. In November, 
1888, the United States elections brought the defeat 
of Cleveland and Bayard and the triumph of a Repub- 
lican party once more committed to high protection. 
In Canada itself the Jesuits' Estates agitation had 
diverted public interest from trade to creed. With 
Protestantism in danger (and fortunately from a 
Liberal provincial premier), reciprocity could be side- 
tracked. The "Mail" itself was at once in full cry down 
the Jesuit trail, and grew lukewarm on its old gospel. 
It was in vain that Goldwin Smith made light of its 
defection: "What happens the tree when the bird which 
has lighted on a twig flies away?" For the moment, 
the trade issue took a very secondary place. 

The disposition of the Jesuits' Estates had been for 
many a year a thorny question with which few politi- 
cians had cared to grapple. The Society of Jesus had 
had a chequered career in Canada. In the early days 
of New France, the courage, the unselfish devotion, the 
crowning martyrdom of members of the order, and in 
some cases the capacity for political manoeuvring, had 

381 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

given the society prestige and power and in time wide 
acres, the gift of the State or of private benefactors. 
During the last years of the French regime in Canada, 
the Jesuits throughout the world were falling on evil 
days; one Catholic sovereign after another, alarmed 
by their political intrigues and their growth in wealth 
and assertiveness, expelled them from his dominions. 
When the leading Protestant power became master of 
the destinies of New France, it was therefore not 
surprising that proposals were made for suppressing 
the order and confiscating its estates. Whether by 
force of the application of the laws of England at the 
time of the Conquest, or of the proclamation of the 
King in 1791 suppressing the order in Canada, or by 
escheat after the death in 1800 of the last surviving 
Canadian member, the Crown took title and control 
of the estates. Lord Amherst, and after his death, 
his heirs, sought the estates as recompense for military 
service, but in spite of sundry promises, the grant was 
not made. The situation was complicated by the fact 
that in 1773 Pope Clement XIV had decreed the sup- 
pression of the society; it was contended that by ec- 
clesiastical usage and the civil law of New France, 
any corporate property fell in such case to the ordi- 
naries of the diocese, the bishops of Quebec and Mont- 
real. In 1831 the estates, still segregated, were con- 
veyed as a trust to the province of Canada for purposes 
of education ; with Confederation they passed to Quebec. 
In the meantime, the Jesuits had come back to the 
scene of their early trials and triumphs. Pius VII 

382 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

had raised the ban in 1814. In 1842, at the instance of 
Bishop Bourget, a number of Jesuit priests came to 
the diocese of Montreal ; ten years later a Jesuit school, 
St. Mary's College, was incorporated by the province 
of Canada, only seven members opposing and twenty- 
five Catholic and twenty-nine Protestant members 
supporting. They became a teaching order solely; 
a generation later, as Sir John Macdonald noted, there 
was not a single parish in Quebec that had a Jesuit 
as its cure. In the ecclesiastical and political con- 
troversies of the sixties and seventies, members of the 
order were Bishop Bourget's most able and most aggres- 
sive supporters. When their position was more assured, 
they began to revive their claims to the old estates, but 
not only did ministers of state turn a deaf ear, Gedeon 
Ouimet, prime minister in 1874, protesting to Rome 
that the question was closed and that the arguing 
of the Jesuit claims would only stir passion and fanat- 
icism, and all in vain, but Archbishop Taschereau and 
the greater part of the ecclesiastical authorities opposed, 
pressing the counter-claims of the dioceses and of Laval 
University. 

When Honore Mercier became premier, a new 
chapter opened. Mfcrcier had been educated in St. 
Mary's College, and had a fervent sympathy with his 
old teachers. His political alliance with the ultramon- 
tane wing of the Conservatives had carried him far 
from the old Rouge traditions. He did not create the 
issue, but neither did he run away from it. He was 
honestly convinced that the Society of Jesus had moral, 

383 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

though no legal rights. He found the peace of the 
province disturbed by the controversy, and the title to 
the estates so clouded in the public estimation that they 
could not be sold or leased at their proper value. His 
worst enemies never accused Mercier of lack of courage, 
nor of lack of astuteness. When he determined to 
settle the question, he laid his plans shrewdly and 
pressed ahead regardless of opposition. The first step 
was to reconstitute the order as a legal entity. In 
1887 he introduced a bill to incorporate the Society of 
Jesus. Mgr. Taschereau, now America's first cardinal, 
opposed the bill. The Jesuits suggested a compromise, 
to give them the right to establish schools only in 
those dioceses whose bishops gave consent. Mgr. 
Hamel, acting on behalf of the cardinal, agreed, but 
a moment later declared that in so doing he had ex- 
ceeded his mandate. But Mercier seized the opening, 
accepted the amendment, and pushed the bill through: 
every man, he declared, venerated Cardinal Taschereau, 
but that was no reason for committing injustice, crush- 
ing the little to exalt the great; if there were difficulties 
between the ecclesiastical authorities and the Jesuits, 
that was for the Holy See to judge; if the legislature 
granted further delay, in order to enable all the bishops 
to agree, well, he had the most profound respect for 
the venerable prelates, but he could not help remark- 
ing that if they waited till all were in agreement they 
would wait a long time. 

The next step was to reconcile the conflicting claims 
to the estates. Mercier insisted that if the province 

384 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

was to make any payment, it must secure a complete 
discharge. Protracted negotiations in Rome and in 
Quebec led to a settlement which was embodied in 
an act which Mercier introduced into the legislature 
in June, 1888. The sum of $400,000, much below the 
value of the estates, was to be paid to ecclesiastical 
authorities in the province, to be designated later by 
the Pope, and in return a complete renunciation of any 
further claims was to be given; until so validated, the 
settlement was not to take effect; to compensate Prot- 
estant schools, which had received a share of the revenue 
from the estates, the sum of $80,000 was to be granted 
them, to be distributed by the Protestant Committee 
of the Council of Instruction. The bill passed with 
scarcely a ripple of dissent. The Montreal "Witness" 
deplored it in a moderate editorial; a Protestant member 
of the legislature mildly questioned its expediency, 
but not a vote was cast against it. 

The calm did not long continue. Militant Prot- 
estants in Ontario could not permit their weak-kneed 
brethren in Quebec to sell their birthright for a little 
silver and a quiet life. The "Mail" began the crusade: 
'If the British and Protestant element in Quebec will 
not save itself, we must try to save it for our own 
sakes." Other journals took up the cry; preachers 
denounced Mercier from the pulpit; Orange lodges 
passed fiery resolutions; sober law journals found the 
Act of Supremacy in danger; Toronto held the usual 
mass meetings; in Quebec itself some Protestant op- 
position was roused. A cry rose for disallowance. 

385 



LIFE! AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

The Ottawa government had used its veto power to 
protect the vested interests of lumbermen in Ontario 
and railway corporations in the West; why not to save 
all Canada from papist aggression? Was a Canadian 
legislature to be permitted not merely to revive the 
old connection between Church and State, not merely 
to select for state endowment the organization which 
to fervid Protestants was the incarnation of unscru- 
pulous perfidy and aggressive intrigue, but to call in 
the Pope of Rome to validate a statute of a British 
parliament, and to flourish in the preamble a statement 
"that the Pope allows the Government to retain the 
proceeds of the Jesuits' Estates as a special deposit 
to be disposed of hereafter with the sanction of the 
Holy See"? After much balancing, the "Globe" joined 
the hue and cry, and Ontario's demand for disallowance 
rang as loud as Quebec's outcry against the hanging of 
Kiel. 

Mercier was accused of raising the issue for party 
gain. The 'charge does not seem justified. The 
question was pressing; it was in the interest of the 
province to have it settled; the settlement was fair and 
reasonable in itself. The action of the Pope was in- 
voked, not to validate the statute, but to ensure that 
all the claimants would be bound by the settlement and 
the province given a complete discharge. In some of 
the documents contained in the lengthy preamble the 
ecclesiastical assumptions of authority were unfortunate, 
but Mercier had not accepted them. Yet he was always 
prepared to draw from any situation the last ounce 

386 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

of political advantage it could be made to yield, and 
if, by disallowing the measure, Macdonald would pre- 
sent him with a valuable grievance and a solid Quebec, 
then federal intervention would have a very decided 
silver lining. 

Macdonald was as well aware of the possibilities 
as Mercier. His position was not made easier by the 
fact that in the past he had insistently urged and used 
the veto power upon provincial legislation. He faced 
a divided party, or rather warring lieutenants. The 
Jesuits' Estates controversy and its sequels became in 
large measure duels between two aspirants for the Con- 
servative leadership, Sir John Thompson and D' Alton 
McCarthy. McCarthy, born in Dublin in 1836, had 
come to Canada as a child; when he grew to manhood 
he became one of the leaders of the Ontario bar and a 
champion of ultra-Protestantism. A hard rider, a 
lavish spender, delighting in hospitality, a bold fighter, 
McCarthy had in him no little of the Irish squire of 
Charles Lever's day. He had entered parliament in 
1876, and had been Macdonald's chief support in the 
attempts to limit provincial authority. It was not as a 
constitutional lawyer that he made his place, but as a 
popular tribune ; a powerful and incisive speaker, master 
of contagious emotion, surpassed in Ontario only by 
Macdonald himself in his note of distinction and per- 
sonal appeal, D'Alton McCarthy was a force to reckon 
with. Thompson, also of Irish parentage, was born in 
Nova Scotia in 1844; quietly and inevitably he made his 
way to the front, reporter, lawyer, leader of the bar, at- 

387 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

torney-general of the province, premier for two months, 
judge for three years, and then called to Ottawa in 1885 
as Minister of Justice. The post had been offered to 
McCarthy, who declined it, but none the less resented 
the sudden rise of this newcomer in federal politics. 
Thompson made his place at once in the larger field. 
His habits of concentration and of unending labour, his 
power of exhaustive analysis and crystal exposition, his 
solid judgment and unbending integrity, brought all 
men's respect. He lacked McCarthy's touch of fire ; he 
was outwardly cold, though on occasions breaking into 
passionate defence of his own conduct or violent and 
unpardonable criticism of his opponents (as when dur- 
ing Mercier's 1887 campaign he spoke of "the blas- 
phemer Mr. Mercier and the traitor Mr. Laurier"). 
It was not merely in temperament the rivals differed, 
but in creed. Thompson was not merely a Roman 
Catholic; brought up a Methodist, he had joined the 
Roman Catholic Church at the age of twenty-seven, 
and had thereby doubly exposed himself to sectarian 
suspicion. In a country where religious prejudices 
were so easily aroused, a convert from Protestantism 
was under a handicap which only outstanding ability 
and unquestioned character could overcome. 

With the reassembling of parliament in February, 
1889, the controversy came to a head. After some 
preliminary questionings, Colonel O'Brien moved an 
address demanding disallowance of an act which violated 
the principle of separation of Church and State, rec- 

388 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

ognized the usurpation of a foreign authority, and 
threatened the civil and religious liberties of the people 
of Canada by the endowment of an alien secret society 
proved guilty everywhere of intolerant and mis- 
chievous intermeddling in state affairs. His un- 
expectedly able survey of the case was reinforced by 
the efforts of a militant group of Ontario members. 
John E. Barren made an elaborate attack on the consti- 
tutionality of the act. Clarke Wallace devoted himself 
to justifying the original confiscation of the estates: 
there was no wrong to be righted. Alexander McNeill 
delved still deeper into history, portraying the Jesuits as 
unscrupulous intriguers and fomenters of strife in the 
past and unrepentant in the present. John Charlton 
gave a detailed historical summary of the action of the 
the British and Canadian authorities in the matter. 
D' Alton McCarthy concluded with a slashing in- 
dictment of scheming Jesuits, spineless Protestants, 
and calculating governments. But for all their vigour 
and the thunderings of their supporters outside the 
walls, the advocates of disallowance could rally only 
thirteen votes, all but one from Ontario, nine Con- 
servatives and four Liberals. The weight of logic, of 
expediency, and of votes was against them. The main 
defence of the government fell to Thompson, who 
queried the original confiscation, denied there was any 
assumption now of papal authority, and defended the 
competence of the provincial legislature to make any 
settlement it pleased. David Mills, from the Op- 

389 



V 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

position benches, strongly reinforced Thompson's con- 
vincing handling of the historical and constitutional 
phases; C. C. Colby, speaking as a Quebec Protestant, 
praised the tolerance of the Catholic majority and the 
service of the Catholic Church as a bulwark of Con- 
servatism, a barrier against anarchical assaults upon 
all authority; Macdonald expressed his regret over an 
agitation which would divide and imperil the country, 
to no avail. 

Laurier's position had never been in doubt. The dis- 
allowance agitation ran counter to every principle of 
his political faith. He announced his intention of 
supporting the government, and congratulated Mac- 
donald on coming at last to a sound position on the 
question of provincial rights. The agitation in the 
country was the result of the government's long dis- 
regard of provincial rights, a retribution for the Con- 
servative party's pandering to sectional prejudice. But 
it was not merely on constitutional grounds that he 
opposed disallowance. Mercier's measure was a just 
and courageous settlement, accepted by Catholic and 
Protestant alike. The Jesuits had been condemned 
too recklessly; whatever their history in other lands, 
and if they had often been expelled, they had never 
been expelled from a free country, here their record 
had been full of honour. They had been the pioneers 
of the country; every inch of the soil of Ontario was 
trodden by their weary feet at least a hundred and 
fifty years before there was an English settler in that 
province; nay, the very soil of the province had been 

390 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

consecrated by their blood, shed in their attempts to 
win souls to the God of Protestants and Catholics alike. 
Mr. McCarthy had insisted that this was a British 
country and that the people of Quebec too often forgot 
the Conquest. What did he mean? Mr. Charlton had 
added that there should be but one race here (Mc- 
Carthy: "Hear, Hear!") . Well, what would that race 
be? Is it the British lion that is to swallow the French 
lamb, or the French lamb that is to swallow the British 
lion? There can be more than one race, but there 
shall be but one nation. Scotland has not forgotten 
her origin, but Scotland is British. I do not intend 
to forget my origin, but I am a Canadian before any- 
thing. "Liberty," he concluded in an illuminating 
phrase, "shines not only for the friends of liberty but 
also for the enemies of liberty." 

In the House of Commons, the attack on the Jesuits' 
Estates Act was defeated by an overwhelming vote, 
188 to 13. In the country, the agitation mounted 
higher. An Equal Rights Association was organized 
in Toronto in June, 1889, to guard against "the political 
encroachments of ultramontanism." The "noble thir- 
teen" were the heroes of an Ontario hour. Conservative 
politicians, realizing too late the dangers of the move- 
ment, sought to divert it against the Liberal admin- 
istration in Ontario. Mowat was attacked for his 
friendly relations with the Roman Catholic hierarchy, 
and particularly for permitting the use of French in 
the elementary schools of eastern Ontario, where the 
early French-Canadian settlers were now being strongly 

391 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

reinforced by migration from Quebec to fill the gap 
left by the westward and cityward drift of the Scots 
of Glengarry and the English-speaking folk of the ad- 
joining counties. But it was in the federal arena that 
the contest mainly waged, and here McCarthy, with 
strong clerical and lay backing, pressed forward to 
new goals in his onslaught on "French-Canadian 
domination," by which he meant "French-Canadian 
equality." It is> worth noting, as indicative of the 
distinctly racial basis of the imperial-federation move- 
ment, its emphasis on British ties of blood, that the 
leaders of the noble thirteen were leaders in the im- 
perialist movement; D'Alton McCarthy was the first 
president of the Imperial Federation League in Can- 
ada, Alexander McNeill its first vice-president, Colonel 
O'Brien, Colonel Tyrwhitt, and Clarke Wallace mem- 
bers of the first general committee and Colonel Denison 
a little later its moving spirit. 

Laurier watched the rising tide of racial strife with 
keen disappointment. The reconciliation of the two 
races, on a basis of full and fair and equal partnership 
in the development of their common country, was the 
object nearest his heart. The agitation was injuring 
the Conservative party more than his own, but that 
did not cool his anger against the fomenters of strife, 
nor lessen his efforts to stay the tide. Alike in Que- 
bec and in Ontario, he took every occasion to break 
down old prejudices and emphasize their common 
Canadianism. 

In June, 1889, at the St. Jean-Baptiste celebration 

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MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

in the city of Quebec, where twenty-five thousand 
people had gathered to witness the unveiling of mon- 
uments to Jacques Cartier and Brebeuf, Laurier, after 
a glowing tribute to the splendid and storied city, made 
the burden of his speech an appeal for a wider pa- 
triotism, a rivalry in tolerance and generous under- 
standing: 

We are French-Canadians, but our country is not confined 
to the territory overshadowed by the citadel of Quebec; our 
country is Canada, it is all that is covered by the British 
flag on the American continent. . . . Our fellow-countrymen 
are not only those in whose veins runs the blood of France. 
They are all those, whatever their race or whatever their 
language, whom the fortune of war, the chances of fate or 
their own choice have brought among us and who acknowledge 
the sovereignty of the British Crown. . . . The rights of my 
fellow-countrymen of different origins are as dear to me, as 
sacred to me, as the rights of my own race. . . . What I 
claim for ourselves is an equal place in the sun, an equal 
share of justice, of liberty; that share we have; we have it 
amply and what we claim for ourselves we are anxious to 
grant to others. . . . 

I am not ignorant of the fact that there can be no nation 
without a national pride, nor am I unaware that in almost all 
cases national pride is inspired by those tragic events which 
bring suffering and tears in their train, but which at the same 
time call out all the forces of a nation or of a race. . . . 
Our history under Confederation presents none of the dramatic 
events which make us so attached to the past; it has been 
calm and consequently happy. But peace has also its glories 
and its heroes. Canada under Confederation has produced 
men of whom any nation might justly feel proud. I will not 
speak of the Canadians of French origin, as Mr. Langelier 
referred to them a moment ago, but I will allude to the Cana- 
dians of British origin and mention two as examples. The 

393 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

first name I shall recall is that of a man from whom I differ 
toto caelo, but I am too much a French-Canadian not to glory 
at all times in doing justice to an adversary. I refer to Sir 
John Macdonald. I will not astonish my friend, Mr. Chapais, 
whom I see among us, if I state that I do not share Sir John 
Macdonald's political opinions. I may even add that I con- 
demn almost all of them, but it must be acknowledged that in 
his long career Sir John Macdonald has displayed such eminent 
qualities that he would have made his mark on any of the 
world's stages, and that with the single exception perhaps of 
Mr. Mercier, no one on this continent has excelled as he has 
in the art of governing men. The other name is that of a man 
who has been to me not only a friend, but more than a f riend,- 
I mean Hon. Edward Blake. Some years ago, speaking here 
of Mr. Blake, I declared that in my opinion America did not 
possess his equal and Europe could not show his superior. 
That opinion has been confirmed by all I have since seen of 
Mr. Blake. I have enjoyed the advantage of very close rela- 
tions with him, and have learned that his heart, soul and 
character are in keeping with his splendid intellect. . . . 

But it was not merely to Quebec he spoke. He was 
eager to stem the tide of misrepresentation in Ontario. 
To most party men that appeared dangerous and 
quixotic tactics. Why intervene in a controversy 
wherein the Conservative party was the chief sufferer? 
Was it wise for a Liberal leader, newly in the saddle, 
little known in Ontario, suspected in many quarters 
because of his French and Catholic origin, to speak 
unnecessarily on so delicate a question? The caution- 
ings did not shake Laurier's purpose. His followers 
were to learn that, once leader, he meant to lead, and 
that popular hostility would rarely move him when 
he had once taken a stand. He believed that it was 

394 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

good for Canada to seek to explain away sectional 
misunderstandings, and that what was good for Canada 
could not be harmful for the Liberal party. 

Through the Young Men's Liberal Club of Toronto, 
arrangements were made for a meeting in that city 
on September 30, 1889. Laurier faced a large and by 
no means a wholly sympathetic crowd. He plunged 
into the question of the hour. Canada was rent by 
distrust and hostility, a distrust due in great part to 
the constant appeal of the Conservative party to local 
prejudice. The duty of Liberals was plain: to develop 
mutual respect and confidence, to resist disintegration. 
Certainly, Confederation was not the last word of Can- 
ada's destiny; it was simply a transient state, but when- 
ever the change came it must be a step forward, not 
a step backward. He opposed fantastic dreams of an 
independent French-Canadian state on the St. Law- 
rence; equally he opposed attempts to destroy all that 
French-Canadians held dear: "Men there are amongst 
you to tell you that it is dangerous to Confederation 
that the French language should be spoken in this 
great country of ours. Well, Mr. Chairman, I am a 
French-Canadian; I was brought up on the knees of 
a French mother, and my first recollections are those 
recollections which no man ever forgets; and shall it 
be denied to me, the privilege of addressing the same 
language to those that are dear to me?" As for the 
Jesuits' Estates Act (here wild uproar), it effected 
a needed settlement. The charge that the Pope's civil 
supremacy was recognized was nonsense; any such at- 

395 






LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

tempt would be treason and so dealt with. Should 
liberty be refused the Jesuits because they might abuse 
it? That was not the principle of British Liberalism; 
that was the doctrine of French and of German 
Liberals, who fought fire with fire. If Ultramontanes 
in Canada conspired against our liberties, we would 
fight them as we had done before. In any case, the 
power of disallowance was alien to the spirit of a 
federal union, a source of friction and discontent. The 
advocacy of imperial federation in Conservative- 
quarters was an evidence that even Conservatives were 
not content with things as they were. He did not 
believe in that device; what was wanted was an eco- 
nomic, not a political reform, unrestricted free trade 
with the United States, the forerunner of commercial 
alliance among all the English-speaking peoples. But 
above all, more than prosperity they needed trust, con- 
fidence, a better opinion one of the other. 

It cannot be said that Mr. Laurier wholly converted 
his audience. Honest conviction and stubborn prej- 
udice were too strong for a single speech, however 
eloquent and sincere, to overcome. Many of the older 
Liberals, including the very canny premier of Ontario* 
were careful to avoid any endorsement of his utterances. 
Yet the straightforward, courageous, friendly appeal 
awoke response, and undoubtedly did much to keep the 
agitation within bounds, if it did not for the moment 
make the Liberal leader's own position any easier. 

McCarthy returned to the fray the following session. 
In February, 1890, he introduced a bill to abolish the 

396 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

use of the French language in. the legislature and courts 
of the North- West territories. In 1875 the Mackenzie 
government had provided a framework of government 
for the wildernesses between Manitoba and the Rockies, 
based on the gradual replacement of an appointive 
council by an elective assembly as settlement grew. 
The Act of 1875 permitted the use of either English or 
French in the debates of Council or Assembly and in 
the courts, and required the printing of all legislative 
records, journals, and ordinances in both languages. 
Into the Territories, as into Manitoba, there poured 
twenty English-speaking for one French-speaking 
settler, and the privileges of the handful of French- 
Canadians became of little practical moment. Mc- 
Carthy attacked them because they were within federal 
jurisdiction, and provided a good starting point for a 
wider campaign. The sting of the motion was found 
not in the tail but in the preamble: "It is expedient 
in the interest of the national unity of the Dominion 
that there should be community of language among 
the people of Canada." Such a preamble, backed by 
a speech emphasizing the necessity of uniformity of 
language for national unity, involved interests much 
more momentous than the printing of the sessional 
papers at Pile-of-Bones. 

The week of the debate was tense and full of un- 
settling rumours. McCarthy found little direct sup- 
port: none outside of the original thirteen, but there 
was much finessing as to the degree of opposition to be 
offered. Save for a bitter and aggressive retort from 

397. 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

Langevin, and an unusually vigorous and moving plea 
for tolerance from Macdonald, and for McCarthy's 
own addresses, his closing being much more moderate 
than his opening speech, the outstanding contributions 
came from the Liberal side, from Mills, Mulock, Davies, 
from Blake, who had made his first speech in two years 
a week before, and from Laurier. 

Laurier declared that were it only the use of French 
in the North-West that was in question, he would be 
inclined to say, let the measure pass and let us back 
to real work. But avowedly the present movement 
was only a preliminary skirmish. In his public ad- 
dresses before parliament opened McCarthy had made 
clear his plan of campaign in words which he dared 
not repeat in the House; he had denounced French- 
Canadians as a "bastard nationality," had urged his 
hearers to buckle on their armour: 'This is a British 
country, and the sooner we take up our French-Cana- 
dians and make them British, the less trouble will we 
leave for posterity." The ban was to be extended 
throughout Canada. Such a policy was folly, anti- 
Canadian, un-British, a national crime. The existence 
of the two races was a fact, a divergence that some- 
times led to friction, but might be made a source of 
strength. The difficulty could not be solved by the 
Tory method, by following the fatal example of English 
statesmen who for seven hundred years had attempted 
to make Ireland British, not by justice and generosity 
but by violence and oppression, and had failed. It 
could be solved only by mutual respect. The humil- 

398 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

iation of a race or creed was a poor foundation for 
national strength. 

Certainly no one can respect or admire more than I do 
the Anglo-Saxon race; I have never disguised my sentiments 
on that point, but we of French origin are satisfied to be 
what we are and we claim no more. I claim this for the race 
in which I was born that though it is not perhaps endowed 
with the same qualities as the Anglo-Saxon race, it is endowed 
with qualities as great; I claim for it that it is endowed 
with qualities unsurpassed in some respects ; I claim for it 
that there is not to-day under the sun a more moral, more 
honest or more intellectual race, and if the honourable gentle- 
man came to Lower Canada, it would be my pride to take him 
to one of those ancient parishes on the St. Lawrence or one 
of its tributaries, and show him a people to whom, prejudiced 
as he is, he could not but apply the words which the poet 
applied to those who at one time inhabited the Basin of Minas 
and the meadows of Grandpre: 

Men whose lives glided on like rivers that water the woodland, 
Darkened by shadows of earth but reflecting an image of Heaven." 

Mr. McCarthy had appealed to Lord Durham's 
authority to support his intolerance; a greater states- 
man than Durham, Robert Baldwin, and the whole 
trend of Canadian history, proved the folly of force. 

The amendment offered by Mr. Beausoleil, con- 
firming the existing arrangement, was supported by 
every French-speaking member in the House except 
Chapleau, but received only scattering votes outside 
Quebec. After much jockeying, an amendment moved 
by Thompson in which Blake had collaborated, denying 
that uniformity of language was expedient, but permit- 
ting the legislature of the North-West power to deter- 
mine the language question for itself so far as concerned 

399 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

its own proceedings and records, was adopted by 117 to 
63, the minority consisting of the two extreme wings. 

Once more the appeal to racial and sectarian 
prejudice had been foiled, but the end was not yet. 
Already a -tour of McCarthy through Manitoba had 
led to the emergence of another sectarian issue, the 
Manitoba school question. It did not come to a head 
for several years, but it threatened the peace of the 
country from the beginning. 

These seemingly endless bickerings made Laurier's 
position extremely difficult. When pressed to take 
the leadership, he had stood out because of the prej- 
udices against a French-speaking and Roman Catholic 
chief which he knew to exist in Ontario. Since his 
assumption of control, the country had been rent by 
one bitter controversy after another. He had not 
raised these issues, he had not aggravated them, he had 
on the contrary striven in public and in private, among 
his opponents and among his followers, to allay them. 
Yet the fact remained that among the rank and file 
in Ontario there were not a few who felt that at such 
a time the leadership of the defender of Kiel and the 
ally of Mercier was a handicap. 

The position was rendered still more difficult by the 
sudden reappearance of Edward Blake. For two ses- 
sions his voice had not been heard in the House. Now 
he returned and threw himself with his old vigour and 
commanding presence into the debates and the framing 
of policy. Soon rumours arose that he was about to 
resume the leadership. Conservative journals, as in 

400 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

duty bound, fanned the report. Not without guile, 
Macdonald, during the North- West dual-language 
debate, addressed to Blake rather than to Laurier an 
appeal to help in working out a joint solution, and 
Blake without hesitation agreed. Here and there a 
Liberal newspaper, particularly the Dundas "Banner," 
confessed that it would prefer the old leader. * 

Blake's position was quite as embarrassing as 
Laurier's. No matter what his good- will and disin- 
terested desire for the party's success, it was not easy 
for a man who had for years been the unquestioned 
leader and who still was rightly conscious of great 
powers, to take a second place. If Macgregor sat 
down at all, there would be the head of the table. 
It cannot be said that the relations between the old 
leader and the new were cordial in these years. There 
had been no question of the warm and loyal admiration 
of Laurier for the older man, no question of Blake's 
recognition of the younger man's powers. On virtu- 
ally every issue they had stood together. That Blake 
had been absolutely sincere in wishing to retire and 
in urging Laurier as his permanent successor, Laurier 
had no doubt. Yet as time went on he was convinced 
that with returning health and reviving interest in 
affairs Blake had repented of his too rash withdrawal. 
No word passed, but Blake's acts spoke for themselves. 
For three years he scarcely lifted a hand to help the 

l At a banquet in honour of Honor6 Mercier, in Montreal, July 2, a 
prominent Liberal, Mr. Greenshields, declared: "To-day the Liberal party 
control all the provinces from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and if they 
tvould only unite, victory would be theirs, under whatever leader was 
chosen, Mr. Blake or Mr. Laurier.'* 

401 






LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

new leader or his old party. Time after time Laurier 
went to him for counsel, but went in vain. As Laurier 
himself summed it up later; "In the session of 1888 
Blake was not in parliament, having gone to Europe 
for his health; in the session of 1889 he was present 
but gave no aid; in the session of 1890 he gave a little 
more but hindered as much as he helped." In some 
measure Blake's aloofness was undoubtedly due to a 
wish not to embarrass the new leader. 

An instance of the difficulties created by the presence 
in the House of two Liberal leaders may be cited. 
When in the session of 1890 serious charges of cor- 
ruption were brought against a Conservative member, 
Rykert, it was agreed at a council in which Blake, 
Cartwright, Mills, and M. C. Cameron, with Laurier, 
took part, to move for Rykert's expulsion. Cart- 
wright made the motion; Blake turned to Laurier: 
"I can turn my speech either way, for expulsion or for 
a committee of enquiry." "But you cannot do that," 
Laurier replied; "it was settled at committee." Just 
then Blake had to rise; he ended a strong speech by 
suggesting a committee. Sir John Thompson, the 
government leader, saw his chance and moved for a 
committee. Laurier had to think hard ; he saw it was 
necessary to avert a split and to avoid humiliation 
for either Blake or Cartwright; he declared that while 
in his judgment Rykert's guilt was clear, as Cart- 
wright had demonstrated, yet he had profound respect 
for such constitutional authorities as Blake and Thomp- 
son, and would accept a committee. Cartwright 

402 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

looked daggers at both Blake and Laurier, and next 
day wrote a very wrathy letter. Laurier told Blake 
straightly that this was not the way to carry on a party. 
"Well, it seemed the hest way." "No matter, it was 
not the way agreed upon in your presence: that was 
the time for question." 

The situation clearly could not continue. Edward 
Blake could not play a secondary part in the House he 
long had dominated. No matter how loyal his feelings 
to Laurier, it was impossible for a man of his massive 
capacity, his habit of authority, his self-centredness, to 
remember always that he was now lieutenant, not 
captain. Nor was he at ease to see Cartwright leader 
for Ontario. It became clear that he must either re- 
sume the leadership or retire from parliament. Among 
the rank and file in the country, and particularly in 
Ontario, many would have welcomed his return to 
leadership. They knew his strength, his integrity, his 
moving power of speech, and he was an Ontario man 
born and bred; they did not yet know Laurier. Yet 
in the House of Commons there was little and rapidly 
lessening support for such a proposal. Every Liberal 
member still reverenced Blake, still recognized his in- 
comparable powers of logic and of eloquence, but they 
had found a leader more after their own heart. Time 
only strengthened their devotion. Even had Blake 
desired to return, the members of the Liberal party in 
the Commons would have insisted upon the new leader 
holding his place. 

In a letter to the "Globe" of July 3, 1890, Blake 

403 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

made a circumspect denial of current rumour: "I am 
no more desirous to resume the leadership than I was 
to assume or retain it. My only wish is that the con- 
fidence and affection of Liberals of all shades may 
induce Mr. Laurier to hold the place he so admirably 
fills." Yet he was not prepared to give unqualified 
support to the policy on which the new leaders of the 
party had determined. When the next general election 
came, the hardest fought since Confederation, the 
Liberal party had no aid from its old chieftain. 

The general election which was held early in March, 
1891, came before it was expected. The parliament 
elected in 1887 did not expire until 1892. When the 
fourth session ended in May, 1890, it was understood 
that another session would be held before dissolution. 
There was, in fact, a definite pledge to this effect. 
The election act of 1887 had provided for an annual 
revision of the voters' lists, but during the session of 
1890 the secretary of state had sought and secured 
authority from parliament to omit the revision of that 
year on the ground that the taking of the census in 1891 
would involve redistribution and make an earlier re- 
vision a useless expense, adding that no election would 
be held before the lists were drawn up in June, 1891. 
The internal condition of the Conservative party made 
it seem in any case prudent to defer the day of reckon- 
ing. The duel between McCarthy and Thompson> 
the triangular vendetta between Langevin, Caron, and 
Chapleau, warranted delay, that time might heal or 
patch the breaches and fortune bring a rallying issue. 

404 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

But later other arguments prevailed. The rising tide 
of reciprocity sentiment, the threat of Tarte's revela- 
tions of .corruption, the exigencies of the Canadian 
Pacific, and his own failing health, made Sir John Mac- 
donald decide to face the electors in the winter of 
1890-91. 

Reciprocity was once more a foremost issue. Trade 
was still depressed in Canada and markets sluggish. 
The victory of the Republicans in the United States 
in 1888 had seemed to end hope of freer trade. The 
measure in which they embodied their campaign pledges, 
the McKinley Act of 1890, put in force the most 
prohibitive tariff since the Civil War, the reductio 
ad absurdum of protection. In order to convince the 
doubting farmers that protection held favour for farm 
as well as factory, the act imposed heavy duties on ag- 
ricultural products. Whether so intended or not, the 
high duties threatened to shut out altogether such Cana- 
dian exports, butter, eggs, barley, hay, live stock, as 
had hitherto succeeded in surmounting the tariff walls. 
In many quarters the McKinley Act stirred deep 
resentment and killed all desire for closer trade rela- 
tions. That this did not become the general attitude 
was due to signs that the Republicans had overshot 
the mark. The Congressional elections of November, 
1890, gave the Democrats control of the House, on 
a platform of lower tariff, and within the Republican 
party itself a progressive wing, under Elaine, sought 
to temper protection by reciprocity, though as yet it 
was -to Latin America, not to Canada, they turned. 

405 



)J^n 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

Confirmed by these indications in the belief that a 
reciprocal lowering of tariffs was after all possible, 
and with Jesuits and French sessional papers losing 
some of their red-herring power, rural Ontario and 
later rural Quebec swung distinctly against the govern- 
ment. Macdonald's scouts along the St. Lawrence 
reported that reciprocity sentiment was growing rapidly 
among the farmers and advised an early appeal to the 
country. 

Israel Tarte's revelations of the rottenness in 
Langevin's Department of Public Works reinforced 
this view. Tarte, a Bleu of the Bleus, the government's 
most vigorous and most audacious journalistic sup- 
porter in Quebec, had long been aware of rumours 
and suspicions against Langevin's administration. 
Now the insensate jealousy and intriguing which 
marked the relations of the three Quebec leaders in 
the federal cabinet, and a quarrel among the members 
of a favoured clique of contractors, put the proofs of 
wrong-doing in his hands. He gave the proof to Mac- 
donald, only to meet an airy rejection. Then he began 
to unfold his dossier in his journal, "Le Canadien," 
artistically and efficiently, lifting only one corner of 
the curtain at a time, keeping his victims in suspense, 
giving the impression of endless documents to follow, 
and turning the spear in the wound with a deft and 
practised hand. In the closing months of 1890 enough 
had been revealed to make it clear that Robert Mc- 
Greevy, Conservative member for Quebec West, and 
for many years controller of the party's Quebec cam- 

406 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

paign chest, had made vast sums for himself, his asso- 
ciates, and his party funds, by utilizing his influence 
and his sources of secret information to secure for 
his partners luscious and lucrative contracts from the 
Department of Public Works. Langevin himself was 
not yet directly implicated, but rumour was busy with 
his name. It was certain that at the next session the 
Liberals would demand a searching investigation. 
Again, prudence urged an appeal to the electors before 
the curtain had been fully lifted. 

Less known to the public, another factor was at 
work. The Canadian Pacific Railway had not yet 
managed to get out of politics. When construction 
was completed, and the demand for loans and subsidies 
ended, a new source of dispute and political agitation 
had arisen. The company insisted on a monopoly of 
through traffic in the West. The contract with the 
syndicate bound the federal government for twenty 
years not to charter any competing road between the 
company's main line and the United States border and 
to impose a similar policy upon any new province 
organized out of the Western Territories. The govern- 
ment went further and endeavoured to prevent Man- 
itoba from chartering any competing company, though 
any such intention had been explicitly disavowed in 
1881. Charter after charter of the Manitoba legis- 
lature was disallowed at Ottawa. The West rose in 
anger, insisted that not its sparse numbers nor its 
climate but soulless monopoly was responsible for the 
crushing rates on through and local traffic. The provin- 

407 




LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

cial government renewed its chapters, city boards of 
trade, farmers' unions, the press, and Conservative 
candidates denounced the policy of disallowance, and 
the struggle between the two governments reached the 
verge of armed conflict. Macdonald wag compelled 
to give way. In 1888 the Canadian Pacific agreed to 
surrender its privileges, receiving in partial return a 
government guaranty of interest on bonds issued on 
the security of the land grant. Soon afterward the 
Northern Pacific crossed from Dakota into Manitoba, 
and, though rates did not fall as far as had been hoped, 
at least the settler knew henceforth that his ills were 
due to nature and geography and not to Stephen or 
Macdonald. It seemed that at last the company would 
be neither an issue nor a participant in an election 
campaign. Yet once more it was to be involved, and 
from a curious angle. 

The Canadian Pacific, though carrying through the 
all-Canadian road north of Lake Superior, had not 
overlooked the advantages of a line south of the lake 
through American territory. During the construction 
of the main road it had built a branch from Sudbury 
to Sault Ste. Marie (Ontario), which faces the penin- 
sula jutting northeast between Superior and Michigan. 
Once the main enterprise was consolidated, the manage- 
ment prepared to enter thisi new territory, with its 
forest and mining wealth and with the fertile fields 
of Minnesota, in which their old friend Hill reigned 
supreme, beckoning them from beyond. In 1891 they 
acquired a controlling interest in the stock of two 

408 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

United States roads, each a consolidation of many small 
lines, extending westward from Sault Ste. Marie 
'(Michigan). The Duluth South Shore and Atlantic, 
as afterward completed, traversed the whole shore of 
the lake from the Sault to Superior. The Minneapolis, 
St. Paul, and Sault Ste. Marie connected the Sault 
with Minneapolis and eventually, through extensions 
and purchase of other roads or controlling interests, 
was to give the Canadian Pacific entry into Chicago 
and a connection between Minneapolis and the Cana- 
dian border. 

To complete the transaction it was necessary to 
float nearly $47,000,000 of securities in London. While 
the roads in question were not in Canada, and while 
the relations between the Canadian Pacific and the 
government had ended, the directors realized that an 
election in which the government would be defeated 
would be fatal to their plans, particularly with an un- 
settled money market. Years of political conflict had 
identified the railway and the Conservative party in 
the public mind, so that although as a matter of fact 
a Liberal victory would not have altered public policy 
toward the road in the slightest, it might have jeop- 
ardized the success of the new financing. Accordingly, 
in November, 1890, Stephen and Van Home asked 
Macdonald whether or not there was an election in 
sight. He answered, no; not within ten or eleven 
months ; he would go now, but no campaign funds were 
in sight. 

In February, 1891, Mr. Laurier and Attorney- 

409 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

General Longley of Nova Scotia were travelling from 
Montreal to New York, where they were to speak at 
a dinner given by the Board of Trade. Learning that 
Van Home was on the same train, Laurier went into 
his car, where they chatted pleasantly till nearly mid- 
night on matters far from railways or politics. Just 
as he was about to leave, Laurier turned to Van Home ; 
"I suppose, since you are in the secrets of the govern- 
ment, you can tell when the elections will be held." "I 
am not in the secrets of the government," Van Home 
returned; "ask Sir John." "Well, then," Laurier 
replied, "I may give you some news: parliament will 
be dissolved before we return from New York." 

Laurier went on to New York. He had planned 
to speak of the need of closer trade relations between 
Canada and the United States, but half-way through 
the banquet was brought to an abrupt end by the sudden 
death of one of the guests, Secretary of State Windom. 
Van Home, though finding a melancholy satisfaction 
in the reflection that Windom's stroke had fallen on him 
immediately after a speech in which he had denounced 
the Canadian Pacific, had meanwhile had other matters 
to think of. He had been thunderstruck by Laurier's 
news. That night -he could not sleep ; in the morning 
he cabled Stephen in London. Stephen replied that 
the news was incredible ; Laurier was not in the secrets 
of the government, and Macdonald's word had been 
given. Before the day was over they learned that the 
report was correct, and that Canada was soon to be 
in the throes of a general election. What was still 

410 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

more to the point, they learned in due time that their 
own necessities had been the argument that had turned 
the scale for dissolution. Macdonald had spoken to 
John Henry Pope of his promise to Stephen and Van 
Home. Whereupon Pope replied: "That makes this 
just the time to bring on the election." "How 's that?" 
'The C. P. R. crowd simply can't let you lose, with 
all they have at stake; they will have to shell out as 
never before." The reasoning was irresistible. 

On February 3 parliament was dissolved and the 
elections set for March 5. The campaign was brief, 
but it was the most bitterly contested since Confed- 
eration. The Opposition fought with a keenness sharp- 
ened by a dozen years' exclusion from power and with 
a hope rooted in the growing appeal of their trade 
policy. The government party fought with their backs 
to the wall, knowing their leader was dying, his lieu- 
tenants at odds, and their old party discredited. 
Desperation and in some cases an honest belief that 
the nation's or the Empire's safety was at stake, drove 
them to a campaign of personal abuse and flag-waving 
beyond Canadian precedent. 

The government's first tactics were to cut the ground 
from under the Liberals by advocating a moderate 
measure of reciprocity. On January 16, there ap- 
peared in the Toronto "Empire" an inspired despatch 
from Ottawa stating that the Canadian government 
had been approached by the United States government 
with a view to the development of trade relations, and 
that the advice of the British government was being 

411 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

sought. Thompson, in a public address on February 
6, also implied that the overtures had come from the 
United States. Macdonald himself, recalling that 
"every measure of reciprocal trade we have got from 
our neighbours has been got by the Conservatives," 
declared that it would be possible to extend trade rela- 
tions without infringing the national policy. These 
statements made it apparent not only that the Con- 
servative party was prepared to negotiate a reciprocity 
treaty, but that the United States government, by tak- 
ing the initiative, had made clear its readiness for a 
restricted measure of the Conservative type. 

The announcements took the wind out of the Liberal 
sails. It was an audacious move, and as disreputable 
as it was audacious. Secretary Elaine at once denied 
that any negotiations were on foot, or that his govern- 
ment would entertain any scheme for reciprocity con- 
fined to natural products. The plain truth was that 
the United States had not taken the initiative, but that 
Canada, intervening in trade negotiations between the 
United States and Newfoundland, had formally pro- 
posed that all the issues between Canada and the United 
States, fisheries, coasting, and salvage laws, the Alaska 
boundary, and the renewal of the reciprocity treaty 
of 1854 with modifications and extensions, should be 
considered by a joint commission. Elaine's denial 
forced a change in tactics. As much as possible was 
made of the desirability of having any negotiations for 
reciprocity carried on by safe and moderate and loyal 
statesmen rather than by reckless politicians, annex- 

412 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

ationists in disguise. But for the most part the em- 
phasis shifted to the defence and glorification of the 
National Policy, and to attacks upon the disloyalty of 
the Opposition. "The old man, the old flag, and the 
old policy," the "Empire's" slogan, became the party's 
campaign cry. 

The government was not content to seek to show 
that absorption in the United States would be the in- 
evitable result of commercial union or, what they insisted 
was the same thing, unrestricted reciprocity. They 
tried to prove that Liberal leaders were hoping and 
working directly for annexation. The charge had no 
basis other than the heated imagination of self-righteous 
partisans, but repeated and reckless assertion had some 
effect. A tinge of colour was given the charge by the 
revelation of dubious intrigues by Edward Farrer. In 
the preceding summer Farrer had been engaged by 
the "Globe" as its chief editorial writer, Mr. John S. 
Willison becoming editor at about the same time. 
Proofs of a pamphlet which Farrer had written while 
on the "Mail" and which was being set up in a Toronto 
printing-shop, were stolen by a printer and put in the 
hands of Macdonald. It was not a patriotic production. 
Farrer "outlined a policy whereby the United States 
might bring Canada to sue for annexation, tonnage 
taxes on Nova Scotia fishing-vessels, suspension of the 
railway-bonding privilege, and so on. Macdonald 
revealed the pamphlet at a great meeting in Toronto, 
and charged the Liberal leaders with collusion. It was 
in vain that in signed statements in the columns of 

413 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

the "Globe" next day Farrer assumed the sole respon- 
sibility for the pamphlet, which he declared had not 
been sent to Washington, and Mr. Willison reasserted 
the "Globe's" position of self-reliant Canadianism, or 
that the political leaders denied all knowledge. The 
fact that Farrer had been brought to the "Globe," after 
his tendencies had been publicly made known, l and 
that he was the close confidant of Sir Richard Cart- 
wright, made the disclosures, and the publication later 
of correspondence between Wiman and Congressman 
Hitt, wherein Farrer was quoted as considering "not 
making two bites of a cherry but going for annex- 
ation at once," immensely damaging to the Liberal 
party. 

Macdonald's manifesto to the electors was adroitly 
phrased to make the most of these tactics. He con- 
trasted the steadfast adherence of the Conservatives to 
the National Policy with the vacillation of the Liberals 
on tariff issues, and the prosperity the country had 
enjoyed since 1878 with the soup-kitchens of the pre- 
ceding regime. He brandished the awful bogey of 
direct taxation, necessary to meet the gap in revenue 
if unrestricted reciprocity were adopted, the elector 
"being called on by a Dominion tax-gatherer with a 
yearly demand for $15.00 a family." Still worse, the 
Liberal policy would mean the surrender of Canadian 

l The situation was made more embarrassing by the fact that only a year 
before, when Farrer was still the chief writer on the rival "Mail," the 
"Globe" had charged him with having secretly urged a committee of the 
United States Senate to block reciprocity or any settlement of the Fish- 
eries dispute in order to coerce Canada into annexation, and had plumed 
itself upon having had "the good fortune to discover and expose the knavish 
acts of this past master of duplicity." 

414 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

freedom, British traditions, imperial prestige. For 
himself, he concluded, "A British subject I was born, 
a British subject I will die. With my utmost strength, 
with my last breath, will I oppose the Veiled treason' 
which attempts, by sordid means and mercenary prof- 
fers, to lure our people from their allegiance." 

Laurier's answering manifesto marked the restraint 
and dignity of the man. He attacked the sudden dis- 
solution in face of the definite pledge of the last session, 
noted that in his statement Macdonald had not a word 
to say of his own alleged reciprocity negotiations, and 
arraigned the N. P. which had now brought to the work- 
man half-time and lowered wages and to the farmer 
steadily falling prices of land. The charge that unre- 
stricted reciprocity would mean discrimination against 
England meant little in the mouths of men who had built 
tariff walls high against English goods; he would not 
admit that discrimination was involved, since assimilation 
of tariffs was not essential; but if the interests of Canada 
and of the mother country clashed, he would stand by 
his native land. Should the concessions demanded 
from the people of Canada exceed what their honour 
or their duty, either to themselves or their motherland, 
could sanction, they would not have reciprocity at such 
a price, but it was preposterous to reject the proposal 
in advance. Talk of veiled treason was an unworthy 
appeal to passion and prejudice. Retrenchment would 
bridge any gaps in taxation. Economic reform must 
come first; for the rest, the Liberal party stood for 
adherence to the spirit of the constitution, provincial 

415 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

autonomy, and good-will between all races, all creeds, 
and all classes in the land. 

From these long-range exchanges, the party leaders 
came to closer grips. Macdonald did not spare his 
failing strength in the depths of a Canadian February. 
His lieutenants composed their quarrels; Tupper, 
brought back from England, Thompson and McCarthy, 
Langevin and Chapleau, Foster and Colby and Hag- 
gart, sunk their rivalries against a common danger. 
The Liberals, disconcerted at first by the govern- 
ment's reciprocity tactics and handicapped by the 
reiterated charges of disloyalty, fought hard against 
their defamers. Laurier gave his nights and days to 
Quebec. In Ontario, Cartwright was a host, and Mills, 
Charlton, Mulock, Edgar, Landerkin, Sutherland, 
gave and sought no quarter. Mowat spoke scornfully 
of the loyalty that trade would endanger, and Mac- 
kenzie, now only a wraith of the past, came forward 
to support his party's cause. In the Maritime prov- 
inces, there was no federal Liberal leader to meet Tup- 
per's sledge-hammer or Foster's rapier thrusts. But 
it was not the activity of the Conservative speakers 
that gave the Liberals most concern. They faced an 
organized and aggressive campaign by the business 
interests which considered themselves in peril. Manu- 
facturers fearful of an open market, wholesalers pictur- 
ing New York and Chicago capturing their trade, 
bankers linked with both, worked quietly and effec- 
tively in town and city. Most effective of all the anti- 
reciprocity forces was the Canadian Pacific. Van 

416 




SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD 

Prime Minister of Canada, 1867-73, 1878-91 

(1890) 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

Home, in letters to the Montreal "Witness," put the 
case against unrestricted reciprocity more forcefully 
than any other critic had done. But the company's 
action was not confined to argument in the public press. 
Whether or not the "C. P. R. crowd" did "shell out" 
as liberally or rather as "Conservatively" as Pope had 
prophesied, certainly all the influence of a great organ- 
ization which ramified into every corner of the Domin- 
ion, the prestige of its directors, the votes of its em- 
ployees, passes for absentee voters, were exerted with- 
out stint. The Grand Trunk threw its influence into 
the opposite scale, but it lacked the weight and force 
of its younger rival. 

When at last the contest ended, the government was 
found to have been sustained. But it had lost heavily. 
In Ontario and in Quebec the Liberals had made large 
gains, particularly in the rural districts, and in the 
two central provinces they had a majority of one. The 
Maritime provinces and the West saved the day for 
the government. Only, as the "Globe" declared, "in 
the new territories where the voters look to the govern- 
ment for daily bread, in Manitoba where the C. P. R. 
crushed and strangled public sentiment, and in Nova 
Scotia and New Brunswick where a hungry people 
succumbed to the coarse and blatant prodigality of 
Tupper," or, as Cartwright put it more pithily in one 
of the biting phases he coined with fatal facility, only 
in "the shreds and patches" of the Dominion, had the 
government's desperate appeal won any success. 

What was particularly significant, it was a majority 

417 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

secured for the most part from the domains of the Cana- 
dian Pacific. In every constituency but one that of 
Marquette, where Robert Watson won a six-vote vic- 
tory, wholly through oversight, Van Home declared, 
through which the main line of the Canadian Pacific 
ran, a Conservative was elected. The relation between 
business and politics had never been displayed more 
clearly. The flag had been waved. Thousands of 
simple Canadians had imagined that the country's 
national existence and national honour were at stake, 
and had voted to avert the dangers of too intimate 
trade connection with the United States and the risk 
of diverting Canadian traffic to American railways. 
Now the country was safe, Macdonald once more had 
his majority, and those who had directed the puppets 
from behind the scenes were free to resume their task 
of pouring millions of British sovereigns into projects 
for the extension of Canadian roads into the United 
States. 

In a momentous postscript to the campaign, Edward 
Blake took his farewell of Canadian politics, and turned 
the defeat of the party he once had led into a rout. 
He was not in harmony with the new fiscal policy of 
the party, not the least so because it had been adopted 
in his absence and at Cartwright's instance. He had 
planned to speak against it in public, when the sudden 
announcement of a general election faced him with a 
difficult choice. Little as he trusted the new policy 
of the Liberals, he was still less enamoured, after a 
dozen years of observation, with the old policy of the 

418 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

Conservatives. The announcement of plans for a con- 
vention of Ontario Liberals, made in Laurier's name 
and at Cartwright's suggestion, without any consul- 
tation with Blake, irritated the old leader further. He, 
too, prepared his manifesto, and sent it to the Liberal 
convention in his old riding of West Durham, with a 
covering letter announcing his decision not to be again 
a candidate. The convention officers succeeded in 
preventing the memorial reaching the meeting, and 
the editor of the "Globe," to which a copy was sent, 
induced Blake to withhold publication until Laurier 
could be consulted. Finally, in an interview with 
Laurier immediately after his return from New York, 
Blake agreed to stay his hand until after the election. 
The day after the polling, the memorial, in an amended 
version, appeared in the "Globe." It was an extraor- 
dinary document. It began with a scathing indictment 
of the Conservative policy: 

It has left us with a small population, a scanty immigration, 
and a North- West empty still ; with enormous additions to 
our public debt and yearly charge, an extravagant system 
of expenditure, and an unjust and oppressive tariff . . . and 
with unfriendly relations and frowning tariff walls ever more 
and more estranging us from the mighty English-speaking 
nation to the south, our neighbours and relations, with whom 
we ought to be, as it was promised that we should be, living 
in generous amity and liberal intercourse. Worse, far worse! 
It has left us with lowered standards of public virtue and a 
death-like apathy in public opinion ; with racial, religious and 
provincial animosities rather inflamed than soothed; with 
a subservient parliament, an autocratic executive, debauched 
constituencies, and corrupted and corrupting classes 1 ; with 

419 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

lessened self-reliance and increased dependence on the public 
chest and on legislative aids, and possessed withal by a boast- 
ful jingo spirit far enough removed from true manlines's, 
loudly proclaiming unreal conditions and exaggerated senti- 
ments, while actual facts and genuine opinions are suppressed. 
It has left us with our hands tied, our future compromised, and 
in such a plight that, whether we stand or move, we must run 
some risks which else we might either have declined or encoun- 
tered with greater promise of success. 

What policy was now possible? The fiscal plan he 
would have preferred, a moderate tariff with restricted 
reciprocity with the United States, was no longer 
feasible. An imperial Zollverein was beyond the realm 
of practical politics. Unrestricted reciprocity was not 
feasible, as distinguished from commercial union; true, 
a permanent and unrestricted free trade with the United 
States would bring immense material prosperity, but 
revenue necessities for direct taxes were out of the 
question and the necessity of a definite adjustment 
of policy would make inevitable the assimilation of 
tariffs and pooling of receipts. Commercial union 
then, was feasible, but it would inevitably make for 
political union; the community of interest, the inter- 
mingling of population, the coming of prosperity, and 
the fear of its loss, the isolation from Britain, would 
all drive Canada in that direction. He concluded: 

Whatever you or I think on that head, whether we like or 
dislike, believe or disbelieve in political union, must we not 
agree that the subject is one of great moment, toward the 
practical settlement of which we should take no serious step 
without reflection, or in ignorance of what we are doing? 
Assuming that absolute free trade, best described as com- 

420 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 



mercial union, may and ought I to come, I believe that it can 
and should come only as an incident or at any rate as a well 
understood precursor of political union, for which indeed 
we should be able to make better terms before than after the 
surrender of our commercial independence. Then so believ- 
ing believing that the decision of the trade question involves 
that of the constitutional issue for which you are unprepared 
and with which you do not even conceive yourselves to be 
dealing how can I properly recommend you now to decide 
on commercial union? 

A weighty, an oracular utterance, but what did the 
oracle mean? As to the past., it condemned Tory 
policy root and branch, but the past was past. As to 
the present, it condemned Liberal policy as vague, un- 
digested, leading inevitably through commercial to 
political union with the United States. Elections being 
fought in the present, the manifesto proved infinitely 
more damaging to the Liberal than to the Conservative 
cause. Iix the series of by-elections which followed 
the unseating of members as a result of election trials, 
the Liberals lost heavily, and nothing so hurt their 
chances as this condemnation by their old leader. 
As to the future, the letter was not without ambiguity, 
but it seemed to advocate political union as Canada's 
eventual destiny. When the letter was so interpreted 
by the "Globe," and criticized for that reason, Blake 
added a note much briefer than his original letter, but 
equally mysterious: "I crave space to say that I think 
political union with the States, though becoming our 
probable, is by no means our ideal, or as yet our inev- 
itable future." 

421 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

The West Durham letter ended Blake's connection 
with the Liberal party. Cartwright never spoke to 
him again. Laurier, taking the break less personally, 
and understanding more nearly the subtleties and 
hidden workings of Blake's mind, yet could not for- 
give the blow. A quarter-century later he still spoke 
feelingly of the letter as "a stab in the back." Blake's 
objections to the Liberal policy were strained and 
hypothetical: actual experience would have proved, as 
a robust practical sense might have anticipated, their 
futility. / The letter H his mind demonstrated Blake's 
chief weaknesses as a party leader his inability to work 
with and through men of many and varying minds, 
and his lack of political courage/ 

Henceforth the paths of the two men diverged. 
Blake entered a fresh field, accepting an invitation from 
Ireland to enter the British House of Commons in the 
interest of Home Rule. Here his efforts were vain: 
British pride, party manoeuvres, Irish factions, blocked 
the path of the solution he urged with irrefutable but 
unavailing logic, and prepared the way for the trag- 
edies of later years. He had a place of much dis- 
tinction at the bar, but in the general work of the 
House he made no special mark; an Irish Nationalist 
member was in parliament, not of it, and in any case 
disappointment had sapped his energy. He opposed 
the aggressive policy which led to the South African 
War, but here again he spoke in vain: the tide of im- 
perialist reaction which marked the nineties had not 
yet turned. In these later years his friendship with 

422 



MARKET, FLAG, AND CREED 

Laurier revived; it never became intimate as of old, 
but time brought healing to the hurts of pride and the 
older man took cordial pleasure in the growth and 
achievement of the successor whose full powers he had 
been first to discern. In his old seat, Laurier faced 
calumny and defeat with courage and confidence, biding 
his time. 



423 



CHAPTER IX 

THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

The Death of Sir John Macdonald Rival Heirs and a Compro- 
mise A Scandal Year Thompson in Power The Manitoba School 
Question Courts and Cabinets A Government in Difficulties 
Laurier in Torres Vedras The Nest of Traitors The Remedial 
Bill and an Episcopal Mandate The Six Months Hoist The Tup- 
per Ministry The Elections of 1896 Quebec Stands by Laurier. 

THE rejoicings of the Conservative party over 
the victory of "the old man, the old flag, and 
. the old policy" had scarcely ceased when they 
turned to apprehensions that the days of "the grand 
old man" were numbered. Sir John Macdonald had 
taxed his waning strength in the hard-fought winter 
struggle. When the first session of the new parliament 
opened at the end of April, 1891, both leaders were 
stricken with illness. Mr. Laurier soon recovered, but 
Sir John could not rally. He suffered a paralytic 
stroke on May 29, and a week later the end came. 

Party struggles were halted in the shadow of this 
calamity. Canada had lost her greatest son, the Con- 
servatives an invincible leader, the Liberals a foeman 
they could not but respect and a compatriot of whom 
they could not but be proud. Mr. Laurier, who never 
concealed his belief that Sir John Macdonald had been 
more responsible than any other man for lowering the 
level of political contest in Canada and for making 

424 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

his countrymen accept success as covering a multitude 
of political sins, yet had a deep admiration for the loyal 
Canadian spirit that guided all his policy, and an 
appreciation, such as only a man of something the same 



qualities could attain, of the magic mastery Macdonald 
wielded over men. 1 In joining Sir Hector Langevin 
and Mr. Nicholas Flood Davin in paying the tribute 
of the House of Commons to Sir John, Mr. Laurier's 
eloquence rose to heights of simple directness and deep 
sincerity: 

The place of Sir John A. Macdonald in this country was 
so large and so absorbing that it is almost impossible to 
conceive that the politics of this country the fate of this 
country will continue without him. His loss overwhelms us. 
For my part, I say, with all truth, his loss overwhelms me, 
and that it also overwhelms this parliament, as if indeed one 
of the institutions of the land had given way. Sir John 

i In private conversation many years afterwards Sir Wilfrid observed : 
"Sir John Macdonald was the supreme student* of human nature. That 
was the secret of his power. I doubt if any man of his century was 
his equal in the art of managing men. He could play on the strength 
and weakness of each and all his followers at his will. That was his 
chief interest. He had imagination, he had a deep and responsible interest 
in Canada's welfare, but he did not usually take long views. He was 
always careful to bring his vision back to the next step. Of course, 
he was a master of strategy, but not in the detached objective fashion 
of the bloodless chess-player or the general twenty miles behind the 
trenches; it was his instinctive, sympathetic reading of the men in the 
mele about him that made him sense the way out and turned the game. 
Perhaps his chief disservice was to make his countrymen feel that politics 
was not only a game but a game without rules. He was our greatest 
Canadian, but he did more than any other man to lower the level of 
Canadian public life. 

"Macdonald was never interested in the details of administration. 
What is less realized, he was not a very good speaker. The matter 
rarely rose above commonplace, he stammered and repeated himself. Yet 
he usually drove his point home, he had a remarkable memory and an 
unfailing fund of humour; he knew precisely how to embarrass his op- 
ponents and delight the benches behind him. In writing it was another 
matter. His state papers, such as you will find in Pope's 'Memoirs,' are 
on a very high plane, admirable work, none better anywhere." 

425 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

A. Macdonald now belongs to the ages, and it can be said 
with certainty that the career which has just been closed 
is one of the most remarkable careers of this century. It 
would be premature at this time to attempt to divine or 
anticipate what will be the final judgment of history upon 
him, but there were in his career and in his life features so 
prominent and so conspicuous that already they shine with 
a glory which time cannot alter. These characteristics appear 
before the House at the present time such as they will appear 
to the end in history. 

I think it can be asserted that for the supreme art of 
governing men Sir John Macdonald was gifted as few men in 
any land or in any age were gifted gifted with the most high 
of all qualities qualities which would have shone in any the- 
atre, and which would have shone all the more conspicuously 
the larger the theatre. The fact that he could congregate 
together elements the most heterogeneous and blend them in 
one compact party, and to the end of his life kept them steadily 
under his hand, is perhaps altogether unprecedented. The 
fact that during all these years he maintained unimpaired, 
not only the confidence, but the devotion the ardent devotion 
the affection of his party, is evidence that, besides these 
higher qualities of statesmanship to which we were the daily 
witnesses, he was also endowed with this inner, subtle, un- 
definable characteristic of -soul that wins and keeps the hearts 
of men. 

As to his statesmanship, it is written in the history of 
Canada. It may be said without any exaggeration whatever, 
that the life of Sir John Macdonald, from the date he entered 
parliament, is the history of Canada, for he was connected 
and associated with all the events, all the facts, all the develop- 
ments, which brought Canada from the position Canada then 
occupied the position of two small provinces, having nothing 
in common but the common allegiance, and united by a bond 
of paper, and united by nothing else to the present state 
of development which Canada has reached. Although my 
political views compel me to say that, in my judgment, his 

426 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

actions were not always the best that could have been taken 
in the interest of Canada, although my conscience compels 
me to say that of late he has imputed to his opponents motives 
which I must say in my heart he has misconceived, yet, I am 
only too glad here to sink these differences, and to remember 
only the great services he has performed for his country 
to remember that his actions displayed unbounded fertility 
of resource, a high level of intellectual conception, and, above 
all, a far-reaching vision beyond the event of the day, and 
still higher, permeating the whole, a broad patriotism, a 
devotion to Canada's welfare, Canada's advancement, and 
Canada's glory. 

The life of a statesman is always an arduous one, and very 
often it is an ungrateful one; more often than otherwise his 
actions do not mature until he is in his grave. Not so, how- 
ever, in the case of Sir John Macdonald; his has been a 
singularly fortunate one. His reverses were few and of short 
duration. He was fond of power, and in my judgment, if 
I may say so, that was the turning point of his history. 
He was fond of power and he never made any secret of it. 
Many times we have heard him avow it on the floor of this 
parliament, and his ambition in this respect was gratified, 
as perhaps no other man's ambition ever was. In my judg- 
ment even the career of William Pitt can hardly compare 
with that of Sir John Macdonald in this respect, for although 
William Pitt, moving in a higher sphere, had to deal with 
problems greater than ours, yet I doubt if in the manage- 
ment of a party William Pitt had to contend with difficulties 
equal to those that Sir John Macdonald had to contend with. 
In his death too, he seems to have been singularly happy. 
Twenty years ago I was told by one who at that time was 
a close personal and political friend of Sir John Macdonald, 
that in the intimacy of his domestic circles he was fond of 
repeating that his end would be as the end of Lord Chatham 
that he would be carried away from the floor of parliament 
to die. How true his vision into the future was we now know, 
for we saw him at the last, with enfeebled health and declining 

427 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

strength, struggling on the floor of Parliament until, the hand 
of fate upon him, he was carried to his home to die. 

With the death of Macdonald the Conservative ad- 
ministration began to fall to pieces. It was only his 
prestige and his power over men that had held so many 
diverse elements so long together and had postponed the 
decay that besets every party in power. There was no 
clear certainty as to the Conservative leadership. Sir 
Charles Tupper had been the strongest force in the 
party, but he had been shelved as high commissioner in 
London and many of his old colleagues hesitated to 
bow again to his masterful ways. * Sir Hector 

iAt a banquet in Halifax in February, 1896, Sir Charles made public 
the following characteristic letter, written to his son, Charles Hibbert, in 
1891, from Vienna, where he was attending a postal conference, as 
"evidence that the position of Prime Minister of Canada was not the object 
of my ambition." 

"Vienna, June 4, 1891. 
"MY DEAR SON: 

"I, as you know, have always felt the deepest personal attachment 
for our great leader, Sir John A. Macdonald, but I myself did not know 
how much I loved him until on my arrival here last Saturday I learned 
that he was struck down by illness. The news was then reassuring and I 
attended the dinner at the Hofburg Palace with the Emperor and a King, 
at four o'clock, but refused the invitation of the Minister for the theatre 
that evening and all invitations since. It now seems there is no hope; 
how mysterious are the ways of Providence ! Never in his long and useful 
life have his invaluable services been so important to Canada and to the 
Empire, and God alone knows what the consequences to both may be. 

"I received your telegram stating that there was a disposition in 
certain quarters that Sir John Thompson should succeed him, with great 
satisfaction and a strong sense of personal relief. You know I told you 
long ago, and repeated to you when last in Ottawa, that nothing could 
induce me to accept the position in case the Premiership became vacant. 
I told you that Sir John looked up wearily from his papers and said to 
me: 4 I wish to God you were in my place,' and that I answered him, 
'Thank God I am not.' He afterwards, well knowing my determination, 
said he thought Thompson, as matters now stood, was the only available 
man. Of course he had in mind the charges that were made against 
Langevin, and still pending. Had it been otherwise, and I had been in 

428 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

Langevin was the leader of the Quebec wing of the 
party and the senior privy councillor, and had long 
been considered by Sir John himself the logical suc- 
cessor, but he was under the cloud of the Tarte charges 
of corruption and was hampered by the jealousy of 
Chapleau and Caron. Sir John Thompson stood 
head and shoulders above his colleagues in ability, 
solidity of character, and integrity of purpose, but the 
prejudice which was felt among Ontario Conserva- 
tives against a leader who was not only a Roman Cath- 
olic but a convert from Protestantism made it appear 
inexpedient for him to accept the tender which was 
made to him. D'Alton McCarthy, long Sir John 
Macdonald's right hand man in Ontario, his chief ad- 
viser in constitutional issues, and unquestionably the 
most effective and most popular speaker in the Con- 
servative ranks, was championed by many friends. In 
an interview with Thompson, McCarthy insisted upon 
his own claims to the leadership. But the objection to 

Parliament, I would have given Mm my support, as you well know. 
"When this terrible blow came, I naturally dreaded that my old 
colleagues and the party for whom I had done so much, might unite in 
asking me to take the leadership, and I felt that in that case a serious 
responsibility would rest upon me. Believing, as I do, that compliance 
would have involved a material shortening of the few years at the most 
remaining to me, you can imagine, my dear son, the relief with which I 
learned that I was absolved from any such responsibility and able to 
assure your dear mother that all danger was past. ... I need not tell you 
how glad I will be if our mutual friend Thompson should be the man. 
His great ability, high legal attainments, forensic powers, and above all 
his personal character all render his choice one of which our party and 
country should be proud. . . . 



"Your loving father, 
"CHABLES TUPPER." 



429 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

a fiery anti-Catholic crusader was as strong as the ob- 
jection to a convert from Protestantism, and Thomp- 
son, when summoned by the governor-general, had at 
least the satisfaction of recommending another name, 
that of the government leader in the Senate, Hon. 
John Abbott. In his own frank words before the 
Senate, Mr. Abbott explained how he had come to be 
chosen: 

The position which I to-night have the honour to occupy, 
and which is far beyond any hopes or aspirations I ever had, 
and, I am free to confess, beyond any merits I have, has 
come to me probably very much in the nature of compromise. 
I am here very much because I am not particularly obnoxious 
to anybody, something like the principle on which it is reported 
some men are selected as candidates for the Presidency of 
the United States . . . that they are harmless and have not 
made any enemies. 

Mr. Abbott had never taken any share in the public 
work of the party. He had no liking for parliamen- 
tary debate, and he loathed and avoided public cam- 
paigning. But he was personally popular, a man of dig- 
nity and imperturbable courtesy; in Ottawa and Mont- 
real he was intimately known to the people who 
counted, and behind the scenes his shrewd, cautious 
counsel had long stood both the Conservative party and 
the Canadian Pacific Railway in good stead. The 
choice, if somewhat unexpected, and certainly unsought 
on Mr. Abbott's part, was therefore a logical if ob+ 
viously only a temporary solution of the difficulty. 
The new premier continued to lead in the Senate. In 
the House of Commons Sir Hector Langevin at first 

430 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE .ADMINISTRATION 

remained nominally the government spokesman, but 
he soon faded into retirement, and Sir John Thomp- 
son stood out as the leader of the House and the real 
force in the administration. 

Mr. Abbott succeeded to a troubled heritage. The 
Conservative party was plainly losing its grip on the 
country. The dissensions of its leaders and the threat 
of further cleavage over race and religious issues 
weakened its force in parliament. More serious for 
the moment were the revelations of wide-spread corrup- 
tion and inefficiency in the federal administration. 

The parliamentary session of 1891 was "the scandal 
year." Israel Tarte had sought and won a seat in 
Quebec, pledged to probe to the bottom the graft in the 
Public Works Department. He lost no time in mak- 
ing his charges and demanding a committee of inquiry. 
The Committee on Privileges and Elections began an 
inquiry which lasted from May until September. It 
was soon made clear beyond dispute that the depart- 
ment was rotten through and through ; that confidential 
data were divulged to contractors, tenders manipulated 
at their will, and bogus claims allowed; that Thomas 
McGreevy was mainly instrumental in procuring these 
favours for firms with which he and his brother Robert 
were secretly connected ; and that part of the graft went 
to the party's funds. As to Sir Hector's complicity, 
the committee differed. The majority report, signed 
by Sir John Thompson, D. Girouard, and Michael 
Adams, admitted the guilt of the contractor and of 
McGreevy, but cleared the minister of any knowledge 

431 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

or responsibility. David Mills and L. H. Davies, in 
a minority report, contended that Langevin, with whom 
McGreevy made his home in Ottawa, connived at and 
furthered the frauds, and that his newspaper organ, "Le 
Monde," was largely sustained from the proceeds. 
The majority report was upheld on a party vote, D' Al- 
ton McCarthy, Colonel O'Brien, and Nicholas Flood 
Davin alone voting against their party. On the motion 
of Sir John Thompson, Thomas McGreevy was ex- 
pelled from the House. 

Nor did the charges or the probing end here. In 
department after department the Interior, the Public 
Works, the Printing Bureau very easy-going stand- 
ards of honesty were shown to prevail; accommodating 
clerks found cheques, bronze dogs, dinner-tables, jewels 
for their wives, come their way, and merchants delivered 
one set of wares to clerks' homes and sent bills for 
another set to the government treasury. The Liberals 
were not content with small game. Members of parlia- 
ment who had sold offices for cash, ministers who were 
alleged to keep damsels on the pay-roll who gave no 
public service, were bitterly attacked. Not all the 
charges were probed, not all were proved, but sufficient 
stood to shock the Canadian public, and invite the 
pitying scorn of other lands. 

In answer, the Conservative leaders minimized the 
revelations, waved the flag, and shouted, 'You're an- 
other." In August, while the Tarte charges were still 
under consideration, evidence of equally scandalous cor- 

432 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

ruption in the Liberal administration of Quebec came 
as a godsend. In hearings before the Railway Com- 
mittee of the Senate, it was brought out that the con- 
tractor for the Baie des Chaleurs Railway had been 
paid large sums by the Quebec government for which no 
service was rendered, that out of these sums he had 
paid Ernest Pacaud, editor of "L'Electeur," $100,000, 
and that Pacaud had used a large part of this sum to pay 
political debts of the provincial Liberal party. The 
Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec, Hon. A. R. Angers, 
at once appointed Judges Jette, Baby, and Davidson 
a royal commission to investigate the charges. The ill- 
ness of Judge Jette delayed his report, but his fellow- 
commissioners made an interim report on December 15, 
holding that Charles Langelier, provincial secretary, 
and Premier Mercier, while not consulted, had benefited 
by the payment by Pacaud of notes given for political 
debts which they with others had endorsed. In Novem- 
ber, a Quebec contractor, John P. Whelan, published 
charges that he had been bled by Mr. Mercier and his 
friends for heavy campaign contributions out of the 
swollen profits of the building of the Quebec Court 
House. On December 16, Governor Angers, who had 
been a member of the De Boucherville ministry dis- 
missed by Governor Letellier in 1878, now in his turn 
dismissed Honore Mercier from office and called the 
same Senator De Boucherville to form a ministry. 
The legislature was at once dissolved and elections set 
for March 8. Judge Jette's report exonerated Mercier 

433 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

from any knowledge or responsibility in the Chaleurs 
affair. 

To Wilfrid Laurier the Quebec revelations were a 
crushing blow. It was not merely that his party was 
compromised and the force of the attack on the federal 
government weakened, but the whole country was be- 
smirched, politics made to appear a game in which 
honesty was at a discount, and friendships shattered. 
In a public meeting in Quebec in January he attacked 
Governor Angers' action in dismissing the ministry as 
arbitrary and unconstitutional. He added that he had 
not come to defend Mr. Mercier's policy; he considered 
the Baie des Chaleurs transaction in the highest degree 
indefensible, yet he would point out that the charges 
that Mr. Mercier knew of the fraudulent division of the 
proceeds or benefited thereby had not been established ; 
he was loath to believe them true, and trusted that Mr. 
Mercier and his friends would succeed in clearing them- 
selves. 

In a letter to H. Beaugrand, the radical editor of the 
chief Liberal journal in Montreal, "La Patrie," Mr. 
Laurier comments on the affair : 

Wilfrid Laurier to H. Beaugrand. (Translation) 

Ottawa, August 17, 1891. 
MY DEAR BEAUGRAND: 

I have just seen our friend Brodeur and am writing you at 
once. This unfortunate affair in Quebec is making us lose the 
fruit of our work here. We cannot expect now to make any 
serious breaches in the ranks of the majority. We shall con- 

434 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

tinue to expose the scandals we have begun to throw light on as 
far as we can, and that done, we shall have nothing to do but 
close the session. 

The most urgent matter now is to know what attitude to 
take. My opinion would be this: It must be admitted that 
very serious accusations have been established before the Com- 
mittee of the Senate up to a certain point, but the accusers, 
though they touch individuals, do not implicate Mr. Mercier's 
government. Moreover, not only is the method of investiga- 
tion unconstitutional, but the investigation itself has no 
foundation. It is the result of sentiment so obviously par- 
tisan that those who are accused cannot expect to secure jus- 
tice from such a tribunal. In fact, the Senate has not even 
authority any longer to make this investigation ; the bill which 
would have given it jurisdiction has been withdrawn, and it is 
only by artifice that the Senate continues to sit. 

This position would be very strong, but unfortunately the 
facts revealed before the Senate have such an appearance that 
the public, at least in certain quarters, would hardly be dis- 
posed to accept any constitutional argument. It would be 
necessary to go on to say that, while taking account of the 
revelations which have been made before the Committee of the 
Senate, in consideration of the evidently partisan character 
of the inquiry, the public should wait before forming a definite 
judgment until an inquiry can be made before a more impar- 
tial tribunal. 

That, my dear Beaugrand, is the attitude that I would take 
in your paper. Naturally, after that we must await events. 

I would be glad to have your own opinion on all this, if you 
would be good enough to write me a line. 

Tell me whether there is not some fatality pursuing our 
party; it is just at the moment that we are showing up the 
full extent of the corruption of the Conservative party that a 
similar revelation comes upon ourselves. 

Believe me as always, 
Yours very sincerely, 
WILFRID LAITBIEB. 

435 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

By some of Mercier's friends, Laurier's attitude was 
considered unduly cool and aloof. Were not both men 
Liberals ; had not Mercier contributed materially to the 
growing strength of the federal Liberal party in Quebec ; 



were not the party's fortunes linked with his? Granted, 
but in the Liberal party there were many shades. 
Aside from annoyance at the untimely revelations, there 
was a more permanent divergence, rooted in differences 
of tactics and of temperament. Both men were coura- 
gous fighters, both enjoyed the game of politics, but 
Laurier never threw himself into the hurly-burly of 
political warfare with the zest and abandon of Mercier; 
he was not as much at home in the detailed organization 
of election campaigns and the manipulation of personal 
alliances. The difference between Laurier and Mercier 
was the difference between Dorion and Cartier, the dif- 
ference between the studious, austere, moderate, par- 
liamentary leader, interested in persons but thinking in 
terms of principles and constitutions, and the burly, 
slashing popular leader, careless of constitutional issues, 
exuberant, convivial, delighting in the managing and 
dominating of men. 

When polling came, the electors of Quebec pro- 
nounced against the Mercier administration by sweep- 
ing majorities. Honore Mercier at once resigned his 
leadership and his seat. The federal Liberal party not 
only lost one of its provincial buttresses, but had to 
suffer the double share of obloquy which falls upon the 
righteous when they err; the charges made against Lan- 

436 



,THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

gevin and the government at Ottawa came back with 
interest. In the by-elections which were held in 1892, 
following the unseating of members for violations of the 
Corrupt Practices Act, the electors, seemingly con- 
vinced that one party was as bad as another, and still 
under the influence of Blake's post-election attack upon 
the Liberal trade policy, went strongly with the govern- 
ment. Waverers in parliament returned to the fold. 
A Conservative majority of twenty-odd mounted 
steadily to sixty; it seemed that the party had once more 
found itself. 

The session of 1892 varied scandals with gerry- 
manders. Mr. J. D. Edgar charged that Sir Adolphe 
Caron, the postmaster-general, had been instrumental 
in procuring large government subsidies for the Quebec 
and Lake St. John Railway, and had milked the com- 
pany to procure election funds. He demanded an in- 
quiry by the same committee which had investigated 
the Langevin charges. Sir John Thompson refused 
an inquiry on the grounds that it would involve the im- 
possible task of reviewing the conduct of elections in 
twenty-two Quebec constituencies during several gen- 
eral elections. Eventually certain charges other than 
those concerning elections were referred to a judicial 
commission. Mr. Edgar declared that the charges sub- 
mitted to the commission were not his, and declined to 
take part in the investigation; the findings were incon- 
clusive. 

The census of 1891 had revealed an astonishingly 

437 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

slow growth in population the preceding ten years. 
A bare half -million had been added. * The Liberal 
contention that the government's fiscal polidy had failed 
and that the country was being bled white by emigra- 
tion to the United States, received startling confirma- 
tion, and protection began to lose ground. A more 
immediate result was the redistribution of seats in ac- 
cordance with the new population returns and the old 
party exigencies. Sir John Thompson introduced a 
measure re-drawing the electoral map in every province. 
The proposed changes were attacked as gross gerry- 
mandering.* Mr. Laurier, going to the root of the mat- 
ter, urged that redistribution should be taken up by a 
committee of both parties, as the only means of avoid- 
ing evil and the appearance of evil. Thompson de- 
nounced the proposal as unprecedented and imprac- 
ticable, and carried the proposals through. Eleven 
years later, with power as well as reason on his side, 
Laurier was to perform this unprecedented and impos- 
sible task and to end for a time the loading of the 
electoral dice. 

Sir John Abbott (a Queen's Birthday honour), was 
now finding it impossible to retain power longer. Ex- 
perience had not lessened his distaste for ministerial life, 
and the illness which was to carry him off within a year 
was crippling his powers. In any case his premiership 
had served its purpose in enabling the party to pull itself 
together and in demonstrating beyond dispute which of 

11871, 3,686,000 
1881, 4,324,000 
1891, 4,829,000 

438 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

the many claimants had best right to Macdonald's 
mantle. He resigned on November 25, 1892. 

Sir John Thompson was at once summoned to form 
a ministry. He announced the new government on 
December 6, 1892. It contained few surprises. Sir 
John remained Minister of Justice, Mr. Foster, Minis- 
ter of Finance, and Sir Charles Tupper's brilliant son, 
Charles Hibbert, Minister of Marine and Fisheries. 
Hon. A. R. Angers exchanged his lieutenant-governor- 
ship for Mr. Chapleau's place in the cabinet. Sir 
Adolphe Car on and Alderic Ouimet, Mackenzie Bowell, 
John Haggart, and John H. Costigan and others of 
the old guard remained. Sir Frank Smith and Sir John 
Carling held cabinet place without portfolio. An in- 
teresting innovation came through the appointment of 
two comptrollers of Customs and Inland Revenue and 
a solicitor-general as members of the ministry but not 
of the cabinet ; the choice for the former of these posts 
of Clarke Wallace, the head of the Orange Order in 
Canada, balanced the accession to power, in the "Mail's" 
phrase, of "a political conf ederate.of the order of Father 
Petre." 

Sir John Thompson had rightly won his place. The 
prejudices against his creed had been overborne in all 
but a few extremist quarters. The whole country had 
come to recognize his power of intellect, his unswerving 
integrity, his sound Canadianism. True, his earlier 
reputation for judicial impartiality had not survived 
the strain of party battle; his calm exterior hid strong 
ambitions and intense party feelings which sometimes 

439 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

burned their way through in a revealing flash, but this 
revelation only strengthened him in party circles. 1 
He had little ease of manner or popular appeal, but he 
gave an impression of dependable solidity which greatly 
comforted his followers and won public confidence. 

The most serious task which faced the new premier 
was the settlement of the Manitoba school question. 
Already this issue had been in federal politics for more 
than two years. It was fated to bedevil public life for 
all the remaining years of Conservative power. 

The Manitoba school question was an echo of the 
storms which had raged over Riel and the Jesuits' Es- 
tates. The torch of racial and religious passion had 
been carried from the banks of the Saskatchewan to the 
banks of the St. Lawrence; now eager messengers 

1 Sir Richard Cartwright was one of the men most successful in 
drawing Thompson's fire. Sir Richard himself spared no man; to quote 
a random instance, at a campaign meeting in Kingston, during a by- 
election in January, 1892, he had greeted the local Conservative candidate 
as a fitting choice "as straightforward as Sir John Thompson, no more 
likely to eat his own words than Mr. Foster, as honest as Mr. Chapleau, 
as little likely to use his position to forward his own interests as Mr. 
Dewdney, as moral as Haggart, as modest as Tupper, Senior and Junior, 
and as loyal as J. J. C. Abbott." A few months later, in the House of 
Commons, he had denounced government boodling and patronage, judicial 
partiality, and public apathy. Whereupon Thompson thanked Cartwright 
for another of "those war, famine and pestilence speeches which have so 
often carried the country for the government," proposed a subsidy to keep 
him in parliament for the Conservative party's sake, replied to a taunt 
as to defending criminals by declaring that he had never shrunk from 
taking any man's case, no matter how desperate it might be, for the purpose 
of saying for him what he might lawfully say for himself, but had some- 
times spurned the fee of a blatant scoundrel who denounced everybody 
else in the world and was himself the most truculent savage of them all, 
and ended by thanking God nature had broken the mould when she cast 
Sir Richard. This descent from "the language of Parliament to the in- 
vective of Billingsgate," as Mr. Laurier termed it in reply, was the last 
touch needed to establish Sir John's right to party leadership. 

440 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

carried it once more westward to the Red River. As 
might be surmised, it was not really an educational ques- 
tion: rarely is the public roused to a lively interest in 
the genuine problems of education. The school was 
merely the arena where religious gladiators displayed 
their powers, an occasion for stirring the religious con- 
victions and religious prejudices of thousands and of 
demonstrating how little either their education or their 
religion had done to make them tolerant citizens. 

In the modern state, where the school makes the 
man, the control of the school system has been held vital 
to all who wish to impress their stamp upon the rising 
generation, and so education enters politics. In Can- 
ada the question had a special interest and a special 
difficulty. Confederation had been a compromise, an 
endeavour to assure freedom to each section of the 
people to follow their own bent, as well as unity in mat- 
ters of common interest. No part of the Confedera- 
tion compact was more characteristic or more indispen- 
sable in ensuring its acceptance than the provisions 
which safeguarded the educational privileges of reli- 
gious minorities. In the case of New Brunswick, the 
provisions had been found to be too narrowly drawn to 
protect the Roman Catholic minority. They had been 
the basis, secure and unquestioned, of the rights ac- 
corded the Protestant minority in Quebec. They had 
ensured continued acceptance of the compromise of the 
sixties according separate school rights to the Roman 
Catholic minority in Ontario. Now in the case of Mani- 

441 






LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

toba, child alike of Ontario and Quebec, the clause and 
the people were to be given their real testing. 

In the days of the Hudson's Bay Company there 
had been little provision for schooling in the Red River 
district. Such schools as existed were provided by reli- 
gious denominations, Anglican, Presbyterian, Roman 
Catholic, with varying grants from the company. 
When Manitoba entered the union and an organized 
government took the place of the happy-go-lucky 
paternalism of the company, it became necessary to con- 
sider the basis of a future school system. The white 
and half-breed population of the province was evenly 
divided between Protestant and Catholic, and while it 
was probable that new settlers would come from On- 
tario rather than from Quebec, it was not yet certain. 
It was to the interest of both parties to ensure protection 
for the minority. The limitation of provincial powers 
as to education in the interests of religious minorities 
had been a fundamental feature of the Confederation 
compact. In any case the fresh and bitter controversy 
over the school question in New Brunswick had made 
Ottawa aware of the need of clear and definite provi- 
sion in the case of the new province. The settlers them- 
selves had not been greatly concerned over the question, 
but Father Ritchot, one of the three delegates from the 
Red River, had the interests of his church very close 
at heart throughout the negotiations. The result was 
the inclusion in the Manitoba Act of a clause intended 
to safeguard denominational schools. ] 

i Clause 22, The Manitoba Act: 

442 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

In its first session the provincial legislature had es- 
tablished a school system modeled on that of Quebec. 
The lieutenant-governor in council was empowered to 
appoint a board of education, composed half of Protes- 
tant and half of Catholic members, with a superinten- 
dent of Protestant and a superintendent of Catholic 
schools. The whole board had the power to organize 
the schools and select the books to be used. The pro- 
vincial grant was to be divided evenly between the Prot- 
estant and Catholic schools. An amendment in 1875 
increased the board to twenty-one members, twelve 
Protestants and nine Roman Catholics, and provided 
for the division of the provisional grant in proportion 
to the number of children of school age. The de- 
nominational character of the system was increased by a 
provision in the same year to the effect that the establish- 
ment of a school district of one denomination should 
not prevent the establishment of a school district of the 
other denomination in the same place. 

In and for the Province the said Legislature may exclusively make laws 
in relation to education, subject and according to the following provisions: 
(1). Nothing in any such law shall prejudicially affect any right or priv- 
ilege with respect to denominational schools which any class of persons 
have by law or practice in the Province at the Union. 
(2). An appeal shall lie to the Governor-General in Council from any Act 
or decision of the Legislature of the Province, or of any provincial author- 
ity, affecting any right or privilege of the Protestant or Roman Catholic 
minority of the Queen's subjects in relation to education. 
(3). In case any such provincial law as from time to time seems to flie 
Governor-General in Council requisite for the due execution of the pro- 
visions of this section is not made, or in case any decision of the Governor- 
General in Council or any appeal under this section is not duly executed 
by the proper Provincial authority in that behalf, then, and in every such 
case, and as far only as the circumstances of each case may require, the 
Parliament of Canada may make remedial laws for the due execution of 
the provisions of this section, and of any decision of the Governor-General 
in Council under this section. 

443 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

It was soon apparent that Manitoba was to be over- 
whelmingly Protestant and English-speaking. It was 
not surprising that from time to time murmurs arose 
against a system which gave the Roman Catholic Church 
a special and powerful function. In 1874 Mr. W. F. 
Luxton was elected to the legislature on a platform 
calling for abolition of separate schools, and resolu- 
tions were introduced to that effect in the legislature in 
the two sessions following. When, however, in 1876 
the government had proposed to abolish the upper 
house or legislative council, the French-speaking mem- 
bers, who looked upon it, with all its faults, as a possible 
guardian of minority privileges against rash change, 
were solemnly assured by representative English-speak- 
ing leaders that they would not suffer if the council fell. 
There the matter rested for a dozen years. In January 
of 1888 a momentous election was fought in the Mani- 
toba constituency of St. Francois Xavier. The Nor- 
quay government, weakened by corruption, had been 
patched up under Dr. Harrison's premiership, but it 
was staggering under the criticisms and exposures of 
the Liberal press and Opposition speakers. The Pro- 
vincial Secretary, Joseph Burke in spite of his name 
a French-Canadian was seeking re-election in his 
home constituency; his Liberal opponent was an Eng- 
lish-speaking Presbyterian; the constituency was over- 
whelmingly French and Catholic. Wide-spread public 
distrust of the administration was forcing many deser- 
tions from the Conservative cause. As a last resort 
the party organizers spread the rumour, based on Lib- 

444 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

eral criticisms of the waste involved in printing public 
documents in French, that the Liberals planned to 
interfere with the schools and the language of French- 
speaking Catholics. To these assertions the Liberals 
gave the strongest and most solemn denial. Mr. Joseph 
Martin, the moving spirit of the Liberal party, with 
Mr. James Fisher, President of the Liberal Provincial 
Association, on the platform beside him, gave positive 
pledges not to interfere with these institutions. The 
Liberals won. Four days later Dr. Harrison gave up 
the fight and Mr. Greenway was called upon to form 
a new government. Before selecting his cabinet, Mr. 
Greenway called upon Archbishop Tache and gave 
assurances that the Catholic schools and the French 
language would remain inviolate and received the en- 
dorsement of the archbishop for Mr. Prendergast as 
an acceptable Catholic member of the cabinet. In the 
election that followed Mr. Greenway received the sup- 
port of five out of six French-Canadian constituencies. 
Thus matters stood when D'Alton McCarthy, fresh 
from the equal-rights agitation in the East, carried the 
torch to the Western heather. He addressed a cheer- 
ing audience at Portage la Prairie, urged them "to 
make this a British country in fact and in name," told 
them "that the poor sleepy Protestant minority of On- 
tario and Quebec were at last awake,' ' and pointed to 
the separate school question in Manitoba and the North- 
West and the French-school question of Ontario as 
local tasks which could and should be done first before 
the more difficult problems where vested interests were 

445 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

stronger could be settled. 1 Mr. Joseph Martin, speak- 
ing from the same platform, intimated that changes in 
both the language and the school question were under 
consideration. The government, as afterward ap- 
peared, had virtually decided to bring both systems of 
schools under a responsible minister, and to establish 
uniform provisions for the training and testing of 
teachers. It was not their purpose to abolish separate 
schools, but rather to lessen the excessive measure of 
ecclesiastical control which marked both Protestant and 
Catholic schools in other words, to change from the 
Quebec system, under which the State merely gave its 
blessing and its tax-gathering machinery to the two sets 
of denominational authorities which controlled the 
schools, to the Ontario system, wherein the State as- 
sumed control, but with permission to Catholics or Prot- 
estants to establish schools within the general frame- 
work, in which special religious teaching could be pro- 
vided. Mr. Martin, with the impetuousness which 
marked all his actions, determined to go further than 
either his colleagues or Mr. McCarthy had proposed,- 
namely, to solve the religious difficulty by doing away 
with all religious teaching, even of an undenominational 
kind. Mr. Greenway did not conceal the fact that this 
programme of Mr. Martin's was both unauthorized and 

1 D' Alton McCarthy, in -a speech in Ottawa in 1889 after his return 
/rom Manitoba declared: "Do you tell me that the Equal Rights Associa- 
tion had nothing to do with that question? Of course the feeling was there; 
the grievance existed. Her people's minds had only to be directed to it, 
and the moment attention was drawn to it, the province of Manitoba rose 
as one man and said, we want no dual language and away with separate 
schools as well." 

446 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

unwelcome, but he had not the strength of his impetu- 
ous lieutenant, and could not stand against the fires of 
passion which had been lighted. 

Mr. Martin prepared his bill, but soon found that he 
had promised more than he could perform. Manitoba 
was not prepared to accept wholly secular schools. 
The Protestant majority could be stirred to protest 
against the unreasonable amount of an unreasonable 
religion taught in the Roman Catholic schools, but not 
so with regard to the reasonable amount of a reasonable 
religion taught in their own schools. The protest of 
a chorus of Protestant divines forced Mr. Martin to 
drop his secular proposal, though they did not change 
his convictions. The government programme, thanks 
to Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Martin, was then diverted 
into a proposal for abolishing the denominational 
schools and setting up a single system with provision 
for a mild amount of undenominational religious teach- 
ing in all the schools. 

The opponents of denominational schools did not at 
first object to the manner in which they were conducted. 
In all the years that had passed there had been no offi- 
cial complaint of inefficiency, never a hint that any im- 
provement of Catholic or Protestant schools was to be 
desired. Mr. Martin, in introducing his bill, declared 
that the government's action had not been determined 
because they were dissatisfied with the manner in which 
the affairs of the department had been conducted, but 
because they were dissatisfied with the system itself. 
Denominational schools meant a country divided 

447 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

against itself, ecclesiastical privilege, the recognition 
of a state church. To this the Roman Catholic reply, 
and the reply of not a few Anglicans, was that religion 
was not a matter that could be kept in one of the seven 
compartments of the week, a matter foreign to the life 
and thought of every day, but a vital and essential factor 
in the training of every child and in the study of every 
subject whereon men differed in opinion; denominational 
schools did not mean recognition of a state church but 
recognition of the rights of the parent. Many who dis- 
liked separate schools, distrusted ecclesiastical control, 
and feared national division, yet felt that they were in 
honour bound to accept the system as part of the neces- 
sary compromise of Confederation. The broad assur- 
ance of protection to minorities given in the British 
North America Act itself, the assurances of men like 
Brown and Mackenzie that against their will they had 
accepted separate schools as a necessary and permanent 
part of the price paid for nationality and for peace, the 
undoubted intention of the Manitoba Act of 1870, the 
pledges of Conservative leaders in 1876, and the still 
more solemn pledges of Liberal leaders in 1888,- -these 
were not bonds to be lightly broken. 

As the discussion developed, the critics of separate 
schools attacked incidents in their working. In a 
sparsely settled province like Manitoba, with vast 
areas of reserved lands, it was difficult at the best to 
build up a single school system; it would be impossible 
to build up two efficient systems, to find support for 
two schools, in the same scattered areas; nor could Ger- 

448 






THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

man Mennonite, nor Icelandic Lutheran, nor Polish 
Catholic logically be denied the right which French 
Catholics claimed. A single system of non-sectarian 
schools was the only alternative to chaos and Babel. 
Nor were the Catholic schools adequate. They had 
been catechism schools, their teachers poorly trained, 
their pupils sent out into the world illiterate. To which 
the defenders of the old system replied that the com- 
plaint as to duplication of systems was purely hypo- 
thetical. Out of some ninety Catholic school organi- 
zations, only four were in mixed communities too small 
to support both schools effectively; a great majority 
lay in the solid French-Canadian parishes along the 
Red River, or in the larger towns where each flock was 
of large numbers. As to efficiency, granted all was 
not as it should have been, but were all Protestant 
schools efficient? Could any pioneer school be judged 
by Eastern standards? Could not defects have been 
remedied and standards raised by discussion, instead of 
this sudden and arrogant suppression of the very right 
to exist? 

Unfortunately, no attempt was made to bring about 
reform by consent, to ensure increased efficiency without 
riding roughshod over the minority's convictions and the 
majority's pledges. Between the Quebec or Mani- 
toba system, with its complete surrender of school con- 
trol to denominations, and the United States system of 
uniform and exclusive state control, some compromise 
might have been found, as had originally been contem- 
plated, on the Ontario model, with its state control of 

449 




\ LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

administration and of standards and its grant of free- 
dom to minorities to organize schools within this frame- 
work in which a special religious point of view could be 
given. But in the mood of the province, nothing but 
root-and-branch revolution would suffice. The ta/ctS 
which passed the Manitoba legislature in March, 1890, 
abolished all denominational control. The dual board 
of education was swept away and a system of public 
non-sectarian schools established, supported by local 
assessment upon all the taxable property within the dis- 
trict and by legislative grants, and supervised by a 
provincial department of education. Non-denomina- 
tional religious exercises were to be prescribed by an 
advisory board and held in schools, at the option of the 
local trustees, before the closing-hour, any children 
being privileged to withdraw at their parent's request. 
The Roman Catholic minority in Manitoba had been 
overwhelmed by the sudden assault upon privileges they 
had held safe beyond dispute. They found themselves 
forced to choose between accepting schools which were 
virtually continuations of the old Protestant denomina- 
tional schools or shouldering the double burden of pay- 
ing their share of taxes to the public school and the cost 
of maintaining parochial schools of their own, or seeking 
to have the provincial legislation overthrown. They 
were weak in numbers and weak in wealth, but their 
ecclesiastical leaders were determined and persistent. 
At once the long campaign against the school laws of 
1890 was begun. 

The Roman Catholic members in the legislature had 

450 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

fought against the school laws, but their votes had been 
overwhelmed. Archbishop Tache had appealed to the 
lieutenant-governor to withhold his assent, but had ap- 
pealed in vain. Three other means of redress were pos- 
sible : the federal government might disallow the act, the 
courts might declare it unconstitutional, or the federal 
parliament might enact remedial legislation. 

Disallowance of provincial statutes was a rusty 
blunderbuss which the Ottawa administration was loath 
to fire. It had already sought to use it against Mani- 
toba in the dispute over railway charters and the recoil 
had been shattering. It had lately refused to use it 
against Mercier's Jesuits' Estates measure; it could not 
use it against Martin's school measure. Within the 
year allowed for the federal veto the general election of 
1891 intervened. Either to grant or to refuse a petition 
for disallowance would be awkward. Mr. Chapleau en- 
tered into negotiations with Mgr. Tache, and convinced 
him that the other remedies would be more efficacious 
and would, if need be, be applied. The cabinet adopted 
in April, 1891, the recommendation of the minister of 
justice, Sir John Thompson, to let the acts take their 
course ; if the courts declared them ultra vires, the minor- 
ity would be satisfied; if not, their petition for redress 
could then be considered. 

Next, the courts. Had Manitoba the power to pass 
these measures? Not if they affected prejudicially any 
privilege regarding denominational schools which any 
class of persons enjoyed by law or practice in 1870. In 
November, 1890, in the name of a Catholic rate-payer, 

451 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

of Winnipeg, D. Barrett, application was made to Mr. 
Justice Killam to quash the by-laws based upon the 
statutes. The application was dismissed. An appeal 
was taken to the full Court of Queen's Bench, but again, 
with Justice Dubuc dissenting, the statutes were up- 
held. Appeal was next taken to the Supreme Court of 
Canada. In October, 1891, that court unanimously 
held the acts ultra vires, substantially on the ground 
that while Roman Catholics were not forbidden by the 
acts of 1890 to maintain denominational schools, yet the 
obligation to pay taxes in support of public schools was 
a very real handicap upon any such endeavour, and 
therefore prejudicially affected the right. Still one 
more appeal was possible. In July, 1892, the Judicial 
Committee of the Privy Council reversed the Supreme 
Court's finding: the only rights which any class of per- 
sons held in 1870 was the right to establish and pay 
for schools in accordance with their religious tenets: 
these rights the Roman Catholics still enjoyed: the 
existence of denominational schools did not necessarily 
imply immunity from taxation for the support of other 
schools: if this was a hardship, not the law but the re- 
ligious convictions which made it impossible for the 
minority to accept the law, were responsible. Thus the 
Privy Council, in a decision which appears strained to- 
day: it was not the mere existence of denominational 
schools that was guaranteed, but their existence free 
from prejudicial impediments, such as the Supreme 
Court reasonably held taxation to be; while as to the 
quibble about Catholic convictions and not the Mani- 

452 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

toba law being at fault, it was plainly these very con- 
victions, whether right or wrong, that the constitution 
aimed to protect. 

Disallowance had been refused. The endeavour to 
have the statutes declared unconstitutional had failed. 
One resource remained, the appeal to the governor- 
general in council. Granting that no rights which 
existed at the time of union had been affected, had not 
rights or privileges which had been established after the 
union been taken away, and did not this warrant reme- 
dial action by the federal authorities? This was the 
question Sir John Thompson had promised in 1891 to 
consider if the court decision went against the minority. 
Now, late in 1892, the minority, in petition, demanded 
this redress. Ontario and Western opinion urged the 
government to accept the Privy Council's opinion as 
final: the courts had held no grievance existed, so why 
remedy it? Why open a healing wound? Thus beset, 
the government decided to move, but to move warily 
and with an air of judicial dignity and impartiality. 
"If the contention of the petitioners be correct, that 
such an appeal can be sustained, the inquiry will be 
rather of a judicial than a political character," declared a 
subcommittee of the cabinet in December, 1892. As the 
event proved, it would have been more judicious to be 
less judicial. 

In January, 1893, the cabinet or rather Her Maj- 
esty's Privy Council for Canada held a public hearing 
to determine whether or not they had the right and duty 
to intervene. Mr. J. S. Ewart presented the minority 

453 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

case; Manitoba declined to be represented. After con- 
sidering Mr. Ewart's arguments, the cabinet, instead of 
deciding, determined to ask the courts to express an 
opinion as to whether or not they had power to act. A 
stated case was prepared and argued before the Supreme 
Court in October. In February, 1894, the court gave 
judgment. Every one of the five judges rendered a 
separate decision; the diversity of point of view and 
the hair-splitting refining of logic did not show the 
court at its best. Two judges, Justice King and 
Justice Fournier, held that both the Manitoba and the 
British North America Act applied ; that the privileges 
granted after the union were protected by these acts, 
and that since these rights had undoubtedly been 
affected, the federal authorities had the power and 
the duty to intervene. The majority, Justices Ritchie, 
Gwynne, and Taschereau, by diverse paths reached a 
different conclusion: only the Manitoba Act applied; 
in this act the rights safeguarded by the appeal to the 
governor-general in council are not explicitly stated 
to be those arising after the union and must therefore 
be taken to be those existing at the union; the Privy 
Council had held that the latter rights had not been 
affected prejudicially; therefore no appeal could be. 
From this majority judgment of the Supreme Court, 
the question was carried to the Judicial Committee of 
the Privy Council in England, but before its verdict 
could be received much had happened in Canada. 

Many members of parliament would have been con- 
tent to let the courts wrestle with the question for the 

454 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

i 

rest of their political lives. Not all. Tarte, demand- 
ing immediate remedy of the minority's grievances, 
and McCarthy, opposing any further consideration of 
their plea, could both support the resolution which 
Tarte moved in March, 1893, in vague terms con- 
demning the government's policy, and more especially 
attacking it for assuming to act in a judicial capacity 
and thus evading ministerial responsibility. In sup- 
porting the amendment Mr. Laurier declared that 
Tarte and McCarthy, who had nothing in common 
but courage and convictions, naturally found them- 
selves opposed to a government which had neither. 
He showed in an admirable historical review that the 
original clauses protecting minority rights had been 
inserted at the demand of the Quebec Protestants, 
voiced through A. T. Gait. If the Catholic majority 
in Quebec abolished the Protestant separate schools, 
not a man in the House could deny that the federal 
government should intervene. What of Manitoba? 
It was contended that the Manitoba public schools 
were non-sectarian; it was replied they were really 
the old Protestant schools thinly disguised. What 
were the facts? 

If it is true . . . that under the guise of public schools, 
Protestant schools are being continued, and that Roman 
Catholics are forced, under the law, to attend what are in 
reality Protestant schools, I say this, and let my words be 
heard by friend and foe, let them be published in the press 
throughout the length of the land, that the strongest case 
has been made for interference by this government. If that 
statement be true, though my life as a political man should 

455 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

be ended forever, what I say now I shall be prepared to 
repeat, and would repeat on every platform in Ontario, every 
platform in Manitoba, nay, every Orange lodge throughout 
the land, that the Catholic minority has been subjected to 
a most infamous tyranny. 

What were the facts? Why did not the govern- 
ment investigate, and make up its mind, instead of 
seeking the subterfuge of judicial appeals? The 
prime minister had declared that the members of the 
council could deal with the matter as judges, "regard- 
less of the personal views which Your Excellency's 
advisers may hold with regard to denominational 
schools." "How convenient that doctrine," Mr. 
Laurier continued, "which permits the advisers of His 
Excellency to pocket at once their opinions and their 
emoluments." The government's fumbling and delay 
were permitting passions to rise to fever heat and mak- 
ing settlement in any direction almost impossible to 
carry through. The resolution was defeated on a party 
vote, save for a bolt by McCarthy and his fellow-stal- 
wart Colonel O'Brien. Further discussion awaited 
the slow passing of the test case through the courts. 

Other issues divided attention. The prolonged in- 
dustrial depression of the early nineties and the per- 
sistence of racial controversies led to wide-spread dis- 
content with old parties and old policies, and with 
Canada's political status. Party lines wavered: On- 
tario farmers, suffering from low prices and organized 
as Patrons of Industry, on United States granger 
models, went into politics, chiefly to Mowat's hurt; 

456 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

Tarte joined the Liberal forces, and McCarthy, at odds 
with his party on the school question and on the tariff, 
left the Conservative ranks, or was read out by the 
"Empire," though he did not join his old foes. The 
rooted faith in a protective-tariff policy faded. Stag- 
nating trade, the steady drain of emigration, the growth 
of combines, made it appear that protection had failed 
to bring the promised prosperity. The Liberals shifted 
the emphasis upon reciprocity to a straight attack on 
high tariffs; farmers' organizations demanded radical 
change; the McCarthy group insisted that protection 
had been given its chance and had failed; Thompson 
was compelled to promise at least to "lop the mouldering 
branches away," and the budget of 1894 brought some 
substantial reductions of duty. Discontent found 
other channels. Annexationist sentiment was more 
widely prevalent than ever before or since: Ontario 
border towns, and not least Toronto, were honeycombed 
with avowed or secret advocates of union with the 
United States. The counter propaganda of imperial 
federation lost something of its force when its sup- 
porters faced concrete facts, but imperial sentiment 
continued to flow in other channels, notably in the 
demand for fiscal preference. The holding of a co- 
lonial conference in Ottawa in the summer of 1894, 
attended by representatives of the Australasian colonies, 
the Cape, and Canada, as well as by an observer from 
Britain, led to renewed emphasis upon tariff preference 
and Pacific cables as the most practicable bonds of 
imperial union. 

457 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

In these shifting times Mr. Laurier strove without 
ceasing to catch the tide of public favour for his party. 
Every year after 1891 he made a speaking tour through 
Ontario ; in Quebec he was never given rest ; more rarely 
he visited the provinces by the sea. In 1894 for the 
first time he went West, finding, himself, a new vision 
of what Canada might be, and planting in many 
Western communities where hitherto it had scarcely 
been respectable to be a Liberal, an enthusiasm which 
grew with the years. East and West, his hold on the 
country strengthened. Men and women who had read 
his speeches with detached interest, became devoted 
admirers when they heard him face to face, and lifelong 
friends with the warm hand-shake and the kindly quiz- 
zical word and the frank and courtly smile that followed. 

The culminating effort in the popular campaign of 
these years was the National Liberal Convention held 
at Ottawa in June, 1893. Based on a suggestion of 
the Toronto "Globe," this first Dominion-wide gather- 
ing of delegates of a great party proved an extraor- 
dinary success. The convention revealed the per- 
sonal assets the party possessed in Laurier, Mowat, 
Fielding. It linked up the local organizations. It 
gave an opportunity of framing a fighting platform, 
in which the demand for lower tariffs and reciprocity 
with the United States was emphasized. It impressed 
the country and heartened the rank and file of the party. 

While the Liberal party was gaining in unity and 
confidence, the Conservatives were again rent with 
doubt and dissension. They, and the country with 

458 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

them, suffered a severe blow in the sudden death of 
Sir John Thompson in December, 1894, while on a 
visit to Windsor Castle. There was no man of his 
force to follow. The premiership went by seniority 
to Mackenzie Bowell, government leader in the Senate, 
and particularly available as a successor to a Catholic 
leader because of his own position as a past Grand 
Master in the Orange Order. Mr. Bowell was a poli- 
tician of long if somewhat humdrum experience; he 
was widely 'liked and respected, but he had little distinc- 
tion, and lacked the adroitness and the strength neces- 
sary to make his cabinet, nervous and quarrelsome in the 
shadow of the coming crisis, work together in loyal 
endeavour. 

Mackenzie Bowell was scarcely in office when in 
January, 1895, the finding of the Privy Council on the 
Manitoba minority's right of appeal compelled the 
government at last to determine a policy on the school 
issue. The Privy Council, in an opinion which revealed 
more care and more power than its earlier judgment, 
reversed the Supreme Court's finding. It was held 
that only the Manitoba Act applied; that the sub-sec- 
tion of the Manitoba Act providing for the appeal to 
the federal government was a substantive enactment, 
not merely a concurrent means of protecting the rights 
which existed at the union ; that the rights or privileges 
covered by the appeal were "any rights," including 
therefore any conferred by legislation after the union; 
that these latter rights had undoubtedly been affected 
since the minority might now be compelled to pay a 

459 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

double school levy; and that accordingly the governor- 
general in council had jurisdiction. Their Lordships 
concluded, in a dictum which perhaps was not strictly 
called for: 

The particular course to be followed must be determined 
by the authorities to whom it has been committed by the 
statute. ... It is certainly not essential that the statutes 
repeated by the Act of 1890 should be re-enacted. . . .The 
system of education embodied in the acts of 1890 no doubt 
commends itself to, and adequately supplies the wants of the 
great majority of the inhabitants of the province. All legit- 
imate grounds, of complaint would be removed if that system 
were supplemented by provisions which would remove the 
grievance upon which the appeal is founded and were modified so 
far as might be necessary to give effect to these provisions. 

It was now beyond doubt that the minority had a 
right to appeal to the government for redress. It was 
for the government to decide whether it was possible 
and expedient to afford a remecfry, and if so, what form 
the remedy should take. The majority in the cabinet 
had already made up their minds: a grievance existed 
and a remedy must be found. But in order to make 
this course more palatable to their Protestant followers, 
they continued to seek to make it appear that they 
were carrying out a legal duty, not a discretionary 
policy. To this end they interpreted the Privy Coun- 
cil's opinion as a mandate, a constitutional obligation 
which could not be evaded. To this end they once 
more, in March, formed themselves into a court and 
heard Mr. Ewart and Mr. McCarthy once more debate. 
On March 21, an order in council which revealed in its 

460 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

imperious note the hand of its chief draughtsman, the 
young Minister of Justice, was issued, couched in stiff 
and legal language, reciting the Privy Council's judg- 
ment, and declaring it essential that the province should 
pass legislation supplementary to the existing system 
of education and restoring to the minority the rights 
of which it had been deprived, at peril, as an accompany- 
ing minute declared, of divesting itself permanently 
of control over education and bringing about the 
establishment of an educational system in the province 
which no legislative body in Canada could alter or 
repeal. The minority must be given the right to main- 
tain Roman Catholic schools as before 1890, the right 
to share in public provincial grants, and the right of 
exemption from payment for the support of any other 
schools. 

In June, the Manitoba legislature adopted a me- 
morial drawn up by the provincial government. The 
old Roman Catholic schools had been inefficient; it was 
difficult at best to ensure an efficient system in a sparsely 
settled country: it would be hopeless with resources 
scattered among Catholic and Anglican and Mennon- 
ite schools. The federal government should make 
a full and careful investigation of the facts before 
coming to a conclusion. Meanwhile Manitoba could 
not accept the responsibility of acting as Ottawa 
directed. 

The government hesitated on the brink of coercion. 
A remedial bill now ? Next session ? Next parliament ? 
Never? Now, insisted the three Quebec members, 

461 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

Angers, Ouimet, and Caron, in July, and when their 
colleagues would not agree, went on strike. Angers, 
stiff, principled, and not set on office, definitely resigned ; 
Caron and Ouimet, more pliable, after valiant inter- 
views, and after announcements from Ouimet that he 
would accept no assurances short of written pledges 
from each of his colleagues, went weakly back on the 
promise of legislation in a special session. No Quebec 
Conservative was found to take Mr. Angers' place. 
Next parliament, Hibbert Tupper had earlier insisted, 
better fight on a general order than a specific bill, 
easier face Manitoba with a fresh than an outworn 
majority; but his colleagues from Quebec would not run 
the chance. In dudgeon he resigned, but after a few 
days' reflection returned to office. Never, insisted 
thirty-nine Ontario Conservatives in a message through 
the whips. Next session, the cabinet at last agreed. 
In their rejoinder to Manitoba the^y declined to make 
any inquiry, suggested that provincial legislation some- 
what less stringent than outlined in the remedial order 
might be accepted, and declared that if the Manitoba 
government failed to make a reasonably satisfactory 
settlement the Dominion parliament would be called 
not later than January 2, 1896, to enact a remedial law. 
During these passages Mr. Laurier said little. He 
was taunted with equivocation, lack of conviction, 
cowardice, but he could not be stung into committing 
himself for or against a remedial measure before the 
measure was introduced. The minority, he declared 
in the House in July, undoubtedly had a right to 

462 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

appeal, but it was for the government to decide whether 
or how to grant a remedy. He sympathized with their 
desires: "I wish that the minority in Manitoba may 
be allowed the privilege of teaching in their schools, 
to their children, their duties to God and man as they 
understand those duties and as their duties are taught 
to them by their church." But how was this end to be 
attained? First, get the facts. From the outset the 
need had been to find out the facts, not, as the govern- 
ment had done, to make it a question of law. Then 
use conciliation: "If that object is to be attained 
it is not to be attained by imperious dictation nor by 
administrative coercion. The hand must be firm and 
the touch must be soft ; hitherto the touch has been rude 
and the hand has been weak." Courage? "My courage 
is not to make hasty promises and then ignominiously 
to break them. My courage is to speak softly, but 
once I have spoken to stand or fall by my words." 

In an Ontario tour in the autumn of 1895 Mr. 
Laurier reiterated this stand. In his opening speech 
at Morrisburg, on October 8, he was in his happiest 
vein: 

I have expressed an opinion more than once upon this 
question, but I have not yet expressed the opinion which the 
ministerial press would like me to express. I am not respon- 
sible for that question, but I do not want to shirk it ; I want 
to give you my views, but remember that war has to be waged 
in a certain way. When the Duke of Wellington was in 
Portugal, as those of you will remember who have read that 
part of the history of England, he withdrew at one time within 
the lines of Torres Vedras, and there for months he remained, 

463 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

watching the movements of the enemy. . . . Gentlemen, I 
am within the lines of Torres Vedras. I will get out of them 
when it suits me and not before. 

Mr. Laurier went on to emphasize the need of investi- 
gation before action. 

The government, instead of investigating the subject, pro- 
ceeded to render what shall I call it? an order in council 
they called it, commanding Manitoba in most violent language 
to do a certain thing, to restore the schools or they would 
see the consequences'. Manitoba answered as I suppose every 
man approached as the government of Manitoba was ap- 
proached, would answer; Manitoba answered it by saying, 
"We will not be coerced.'* I ask you now, would it not 
have been more fair, more just, more equitable, more states- 
manlike, at once to investigate the subject, and to bring 
the parties together to hear them, to have the facts brought 
out so as to see whether a case had been made out for in- 
terference or not? That is the position I have taken in the 
province of Quebec. That is the position I take in the province 
of Ontario. I have never wavered from that position. 

Recalling JEsop's fable of the failure of the bluster- 
ing wind as constrasted with the success of the melting 
sun in compelling the traveller to take off his coat, Mr. 
Laurier continued: 

Well, sir, the government are very windy. They have 
blown and raged and threatened and the more they have 
raged and blown, the more that man Greenway has stuck to 
his coat. If it were in my power, I would try the sunny 
way. I would approach this man Greenway with the sunny 
way of patriotism, asking him to be just and to be fair, ask- 
ing him to be generous to the minority, in order that we may 
have peace among all the creeds and races which it has 
pleased God to bring upon this corner of our common country. 

464 




Sir J. J. C. Abbott, 1891-2 



Sir John Thompson, 1892-4 





Sir Mackenzie Bowell, 1894-6 Sir Charles Tupper, 1896 

FOUR CONSERVATIVE PRIME MINISTERS 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

Do you not believe that there is more to be gained by appeal- 
ing to the heart and soul of men rather than by trying to 
compel them to do a thing? 

The government is not very anxious to have my opinion 
as a rule. When they gerrymandered Canada in 1882 they 
did not consult any of the Liberals 1 . When they passed the 
franchise act they did not consult any of the Liberals. But 
upon this question they want to consult me and to have my 
views. Here they have them. Let them act upon them and 
we will be in accord; but more than that I will not do. I 
will not say that I will support the policy of Sir Mackenzie 
Bowell until I know what that policy is, and then when we 
have it in black and white it will be time for me to speak upon 
it. Let the ministerial press abuse me all they can. I stand 
within the lines of Torres Vedras and I will not come out 
until I choose my time. 

In December the crisis deepened. Not even Grover 
Cleveland's blustering Venezuela message, deeply felt 
and deeply resented though it was, could divert public 
interest from the Ottawa scene. The Greenway gov- 
ernment, fresh from a general election in which it had 
been overwhelmingly sustained, definitely refused to 
re-establish any form of separate schools and again 
proposed a commission of inquiry. Clarke Wallace 
resigned from the Bowell government when it became 
clear that it intended to force a drastic measure through. 
He resigned on December 14. On December 15, Sir 
Charles Tupper cabled from London to the prime 
minister an innocent suggestion that in view of impor- 
tant developments in cable and steamship projects, it 
might be well if the prime minister would invite him 
to Ottawa for conference, and Mr. Bowell, too guile- 

465 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

less or too proud to question, acquiesced. Then two 
days after parliament met in its special and unprece- 
dented sixth session, on January 2, and after the Speech 
from the Throne sanctioned by the whole cabinet had 
been delivered, the country and even hardened parlia- 
mentarians were startled by the resignation of seven 
members of the cabinet George E. Foster, A. R. 
Dickey, W. H. Montague, J. G. Haggart, W. B. Ives, 
J. F. Wood, and Sir C. H. Tupper. The bolters 
declared, through Mr. Foster, that they did not resign 
because of any difference of principle but because of 
loss of confidence in their chief's capacity. In spite 
of this denial, it was charged that the seven bolters all 
Protestants were opposed to proceeding further with 
the Remedial Bill. The fact seemed to be that the 
bolters had realized how perilous a task they faced in at- 
tempting to carry a measure of coercion, and were un- 
willing to face it unless under a leader of dogged and 
aggressive courage whose close association with Sir 
John Macdonald and the past glories of the party 
would make it possible to rekindle party loyalty and 
revive party discipline, or else under a leader younger 
than either Bowell or Tupper. Doubtless personal am- 
bitions and jealousies played their accustomed part. 
Bowell retorted that for months he had been living in a 
"nest of traitors." He strove hard to patch up a new 
cabinet, but the strikers picketed every train and every 
hotel where a potential minister was to be found, and 
blocked his efforts. The strikers suddenly became ap- 
prehensive that the governor-general might send for the 

466 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

leader of the Opposition. For various reasons, 
"seven in all," declared Dr. Landerkin, "five loaves and 
two small fishes" they agreed to return. A truce was 
patched up, with the general understanding that Bowell 
was to continue for the session, and that Sir Charles 
Tupper should then succeed and go to the country. Sir 
Charles resigned his high commissionership and became 
secretary of state and a little later leader of the House 
of Commons; Sir Hibbert did not re-enter the cabinet, 
but took the post of solicitor-general, just outside the 
gate. It was an extraordinary episode: whatever hid- 
den provocation may have existed, the public were 
shocked by IT ''ndecent publicity of the attacks on the 
prime minister and* the party shaken by the display of 
jealousy and bad judgment on the part of its leaders. A 
particularly taste was left by a subsidiary row be- 
tween Montague and Caron, in which charges of anony- 
mous letter-writing and treacherous intrigue were 
brought against the new recruit. Out of it all, only 
Mackenzie Bo3vell himself perhaps no heaven-born 
leader, but an honourable and straightforward gentle- 
man emerged with any credit. 1 

i Speaking in the '^nate, nine years later, in March, 1905, when another 
ministerial crisiir*fg|iAJn full swing, Sir Mackenzie Bowell, in replying to 
incorrect versions or* the episode, made it plain that time had not cooled 
his indignation. References to "Baron Munchansen," "chicanery," "bra- 
zen treachery," "poisonous reptiles warmed in my bosom," enlivened his 
statement. He declared that Mr. Foster, supported by Mr. Haggart, 
holding other views as to who should succeed, had opposed Sir Charles 
Tupper's return, but had later fallen in with the plans of their fellow- 
conspirators, regarding the arrangement as only temporary; that the 
bolters planned to go to the country before passing a Remedial Bill, and 
that he made no bargain with Sir Charles Tupper to retire at the end of 
the session, though he had his mind made up as to his course of action. 

467 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

The government was doing its best to commit suicide, 
but it was hard to kill. With the Roman Catholic 
hierarchy, the Orange Order and the manufacturers 
behind it, and the memory of Macdonald still a power 
to conjure with, thejy could have afforded to make many 
a blunder, had they not had to face a- leader as able in 
strategy as Macdonald himself, fast attaining Mac- 
donald's height of confidence and affection, and stand- 
ing out in clean, clear contrast with the cabinet's dis- 
play of petty intrigues and panic-stricken indecision. 
Much would depend upon Laurier's tactics when the 
Remedial Bill was introduced. If he accepted it, the 
government was safe in Ontario, except* for whatever 
minor inroads the McCarthyites might make, and would 
receive the reward of priority and courage in Quebec. 
If he compromised, or urged delay qr &~ commission of 
inquiry, the impatient certainty of partisans everywhere 
and the weary prayer of the unconcerned to make an 
end of the troubling question might be relied upon to 
ensure for him and his party the fate of the over- judi- 
cious. 

The House had met on January 2. Not until five 
weeks later did Mr. Dickey move the first reading of 
the Remedial Bill, and outline its pro'Wons. The bill 
provided for the establishment of a system of separate 
schools in Manitoba, supervised by a Roman Catholic 
board of education, supported by the local rates of such 
Catholics as did not declare themselves public-school 
supporters, with exemption from public-school local 
rates, and entitled to receive whatever provincial grant 

468 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

the legislature might allot; the bill, while declaring such 
a grant a right and privilege of the minority, would 
not, as the remedial order had done, specifically com- 
mand the province to make it. 

Laurier heard the formal announcement with deep 
relief. The government had manoeuvred itself into an 
impossible position. Its bill offered the maximum of 
coercion against the province, with the minimum of 
real aid for the minority. Without a provincial grant 
the rural separate schools could not maintain their effi- 
ciency or their existence. He was therefore free to 
maintain the old Liberal position of provincial rights, 
"Hands off Manitoba," and when his political and ec- 
clesiastical foes attacked him in Quebec as a traitor to 
his race and his religion, as attack they would, he could 
reply that the sham relief the bill offered would not 
serve the minority's interest half so well as the voluntary 
concessions he would secure from the Manitoba gov- 
ernment by his sunny ways. 

The church authorities did not delay in making their 
position clear. Archbishop Langevin telegraphed from 
St. Boniface: "Lex applicabiUs, efficax et satisfactoria. 
Probo illam. Omnes episcopi et veri Catholici appro- 
bare debeunt. Vita in lege." In words more easily 
understood by the elector, in a fiery address at Montreal 
he declared: "When the hierarchy has spoken it is use- 
less for any Catholic to say the contrary, for if he does 
he is no longer a Catholic." In a letter to "L/Evene- 
ment" the Abbe Paquet, speaking for Archbishop Be- 
gin, declared that the Church would support and insist 

469 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

upon the remedial law. 1 But much more striking 
than any of these utterances was the pronouncement 
issued in the name of the bishops by Father Lacombe, a 
pioneer Western missionary whom all men honoured. 
In an open letter to Wilfrid Laurier written January 
20, and made public through ecclesiastical channels 
a month later, he issued the episcopal ultimatum: 

Hon. Wilfrid Laurier, M. P., Ottawa. 

MY DEAR SIR : 

In this critical time for the question of the Manitoba 
schools, permit an aged missionary, to-day representing the 
bishops of your country in this cause, which concerns us 
all, permit me to appeal to your faith, to your patriotism 
and to your spirit of justice, to entreat you to accede to our 
request. It is in the name of our bishops, of the hierarchy 
and the Catholics of Canada, that we ask the party of which 
you are the very worthy chief, to assist us in settling this 
famous question, and to do so by voting with the government 
on the Remedial Bill. We do not ask you to vote for the 
government, but for the bill, which will render us our rights, 
the bill which will be presented to the House in a few days. 

I consider, or rather we all consider, that such an act of 
courage, good-will, and sincerity on your part and from those 
who follow your policy will be greatly in the interests of your 
party, especially in the general elections. I must tell you 
that we cannot accept your commission of enquiry on any 
account, and shall do our best to fight it. 

i "The hierarchy alone can hope to produce this union by calling 
upon our legislators, and especially upon those whose conscience it controls, 
to rise for a moment above the temporal interests which animate them, to 
forget their political divisions, and, taking the judgment of the Privy 
Council of England as their starting point, to make it the solid basis of a 
truly remedial law. To the ecclesiastical power, then, belongs the right to 
judge whether the interference should -take place in the form of a com- 
mand or council. . . . And when the interference takes an imperative form, 
as in the case of the Manitoba schools, only one thing remains to be done 
by the faithful, and that is to obey." 

470 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

If, which may God not grant, you do not believe it to be 
your duty to accede to our just demands, and if the govern- 
ment, which is anxious to give us the promised law, is beaten 
and overthrown while keeping firm to the end of the struggle, 
I inform you, with regret, that the episcopacy, like one man, 
united with the clergy, will rise to support those who may 
have fallen in defending us. 

Please pardon the frankness which leads me to speak thus. 
Though I am not your intimate friend, still I may say that 
we have been on good terms. Always I have deemed you a 
gentleman, a respectable citizen, and a man well fitted to be 
at the head of a political party. May Divine Providence 
keep up your courage and your energy for the good of our 
common country. 

I remain, sincerely and respectfully, honoured Sir, 
Your most humble and devoted servant, 

A. LACOMBE, O.M.I. 

It was with this message still .ringing in his ears that 
Wilfrid Laurier announced the policy of his party 
when the debate on the second reading of the bill began 
on March 3. Sir Charles Tupper had moved the second 
reading in a strong speech which emphasized the protec- 
tion of minorities as the indispensable condition of 
Confederation, the foundation, therefore, of all Can- 
ada's later greatness: the legal duty laid upon parlia- 
ment by the decision of the Privy Council, and the moral 
obligation which honour imposed upon the majority. 
Mr. Laurier rose to reply. Those who were expecting 
a dexterous and evasive speech, or at least a call for 
a commission of inquiry, soon had their hopes or their 
doubts set at rest. In one remarkable sentence, which 
makes thirty lines of Hansard, but runs limpidly and 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

swells with growing force to its smashing end, he made 
his position clear: 

Mr. Speaker, if in a debate of such moment it were not out 
of place for me to make a personal reference to myself, a 
reference, however, which may perhaps be justified, not so 
much on account of the feelings which may not unnaturally 
be attributed to me, being of the race and of the creed of 
which I am, but still more in consideration of the great re- 
sponsibility which has been placed on my shoulders by the 
too kind regard of the friends by whom I am surrounded 
here, I would say that, in the course of my parliamentary 
career, during which it has been my duty on more than one 
occasion to take part in the discussion of thos'e dangerous 
questions which too often have come before the parliament 
of Canada, never did I rise, sir, with a greater sensje of se- 
curity; never did I feel so strong in the consciousness of 
right, as I do now, at this anxious moment; when, in the 
name of the constitution so outrageously misinterpreted by 
the government, in the name of peace and harmony in this 
land; when in the name of the minority which this bill seeks 
or pretends to help, in the name of this young nation on 
which so many hopes are centred, I rise to ask this parliament 
not to proceed any further with this bill. 

As the thundering cheers from his followers were 
hushed, Laurier went on to give in detail the reasons 
for his stand. Glancing at Tupper's rhetorical appeal 
to the past triumphs of Confederation, he referred him 
to one page not so glorious the page that described 
how Nova Scotia had been dragooned into union: 

There was at the head of the government of Nova Scotia 
at that time a gentleman who to-day has been brought back 
from England to force this measure upon the people of Canada. 
Instead of applying himself to persuading his own fellow- 
countrymen of the grandeur of this Act of Confederation, he 

472 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

forced the project down the throats of the people of Nova 
Scotia by the brute force of a mechanical majority in a mor- 
ibund parliament. 

Tapper's action had left a bitterness "which never will 
entirely disappear until it is buried in the grave of the 
last man of that generation/' And what of the agi- 
tations which had marked the years since, the dis- 
pute with Ontario over the Streams Bill, the dispute 
with Manitoba over the railway charters, the dispute 
with Quebec over the Jesuits' Estates law? Had not 
one and all of these dangerous strains been caused by 
attempts "to abridge the independence of the provincial 
legislature"? 

The powers of control over the provinces which the 
constitution assigned to the Dominion were of doubtful 
wisdom,- -probably never to be applied without friction 
and discontent. But the remedy of federal inter- 
ference is there; it must be applied, but so applied as 
to avoid irritation. It is not to be applied mechanically, 
it must be applied intelligently, "only after full and 
ample inquiry into the facts of the case, after all means 
of conciliation have been exhausted, and only as a last 
resort." In this case, when the Roman Catholic min- 
ority urged its grievances, the federal government 
should have made inquiry, should have searched out 
the facts, should have gone to Manitoba, not to the 
courts. It is said inquiry, negotiation, would be of no 
avail. Yet the government of Manitoba had expressed 
its willingness, once the grievances were investigated, 
the wrongs proved, itself to give the minority redress. 

473 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

The province had never been approached in the proper 
way. The federal government had bungled the case 
from first to last. He continued: 

There are men in this House who are against separate 
schools, but who would have no objection to the re-establish- 
ment of separate schools in Manitoba, provided they were 
re-established by the province of Manitoba itself. There are 
men in this House who are not in favour of separate schools, 
but who think very strongly that it would not be advisable 
to interfere with the legislation of Manitoba at all until all 
means of conciliation had been exhausted. Sir, in face of 
this perilous position, I maintain to-day, and I submit it to 
the consideration of gentlemen on both sides, that the policy 
of the Opposition, affirmed since many years, reiterated on 
more than one occasion, is the only policy which can success- 
fully deal with this question the only policy which can remedy 
the grievance of the minority, while at the same time not 
violently assaulting the right of the majority and thereby 
perhaps creating a greater wrong. This was the policy 
which, for my part, I adopted and developed the very first 
time the question came before this House, and upon this policy 
to-day I stand once more. 

Then turning to the warning given him by Father 
Lacombe, Mr. Laurier closed his address in a quiet, 
firm statement of principle which went to the root of 
things : 

Sir, I cannot forget at this moment that the policy which 
I have advocated and maintained all along has not been 
favourably received in all quarters. Not many weeks ago I 
was told from high quarters in the Church to which I belong 
that unless I supported the school bill which was then being 
prepared by the government and which we now have before 
us, I would incur the hostility of a great and powerful body. 
Sir, this is too grave a phase of this question for me to pass 

474 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

over in silence. I have only this to say: even though I have 
threats held over me, coming, as I am told, from high digni- 
taries in the Church to which I belong, no word of bitterness 
shall ever pass my lips as against that Church. I respect it 
and I love it. Sir, I am not of that school which has long been 
dominant in France and other countries of continental Europe, 
which refuses ecclesiastics the right of a voice in public affairs. 
No, I am a Liberal of the English school. I believe in that 
school which has all along claimed that it is the privilege of 
all subjects, whether high or low, whether rich or poor, whether 
ecclesiastics or laymen, to participate in the administration 
of public affairs, to discuss, to influence, to persuade, to con- 
vince but which has always denied even to the highest the 
right to dictate even to the lowest. 

I am here representing not Roman Catholics alone but 
Protestants as well, and I must give an account of my steward- 
ship to all classes. Here am I, a Roman Catholic of French 
extraction, entrusted by the confidence of the men who sit 
around me with great and important duties under our constitu- 
tional system of government. I am here the acknowledged 
leader of a great party, composed of Roman Catholics and 
Protestants as well, as Protestants must be in the majority 
in every party in Canada. Am I to be told, I, occupying such 
a position, that I am to be dictated the course I am to take 
in this House, by reasons that can appeal to the consciences 
of my fellow-Catholic members, but which do not appeal as 
well to the consciences of my Protestant colleagues? No. 
So long as I have a seat in this House, so long as I occupy 
the position I do now, whenever it shall become my duty to 
take a stand upon any question whatever, that stand I will 
take not upon grounds of Roman Catholicism, not upon 
grounds of Protestantism, but upon grounds which can appeal 
to the conscience of all men, irrespective of their particular 
faith, upon grounds which can be occupied by all men who 
love justice, freedom and toleration. 

So far as this bill is concerned, I have .given you my views. 
I know, I acknowledge, that there is in this government the 

475 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

power to interfere, there is in this parliament the power to 
interfere; but that power should not be exercised until all 
the facts bearing upon the case have been investigated and 
all means of tonciliation exhausted. Holding these opinions, 
I move that the bill be not now read the second time but that 
it be read the second time this day six months. 

Laurier's speech was not long; it was characteristi- 
cally limited to driving home a few outstanding points, 
but it was a speech that made history. Its breadth and 
sureness, its courage and fervour, roused the admiration 
and the enthusiasm of the Opposition to unusual 
heights. The demand for the six-months' hoist, the 
most direct negative parliamentary procedure pro- 
vided, challenged the government's policy boldly and 
unequivocally. 

The debate continued for over a fortnight. All the 
debating power of the House was brought into action. 
For the government, A. R. Dickey insisted that the bill 
was a constitutional necessity and that if it was not to 
be passed, the clause protecting minorities was waste 
paper; Sir Adolphe Caron, Sir Hector Langevin, and 
Colonel Amyot urged Quebec's example of tolerance 
and the countless pledges of public men; Ives spoke for 
the Quebec Protestant minority; and, in particularly 
effective speeches, Hibbert Tupper reviewed the legal 
and the personal phases, George Foster the political 
phases, and Sir Donald Smith the pledges given the 
people of Red River in 1870. For the Liberals, C. A. 
Geoffrion, Louis Lavergne, Francois Langelier at- 
tacked the bill as ineffective in its aid to the minority; 
Joseph Martin, John Charlton, J. D. Edgar, George 

476 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

Casey, David Mills, the latter with some hesitancy on 
constitutional points, attacked its assault on provincial 
liberties and its impossibility as a permanent settlement. 
There was no small measure of cross-firing, Wallace, 
McCarthy, and their Ontario followers siding with the 
Opposition, and such Liberals as Devlin and Beausoleil 
declaring they would vote for the bill. When the vote 
on Mr. Laurier's six-months' hoist was taken at six 
o'clock of the morning of March 20, the government was 
sustained by a majority of twenty- four, a little more 
than half its normal margin. Eighteen Conservatives 
voted against the government, Wallace, McCarthy, 
Sproule, O'Brien, McNeill, Cockburn, Henderson, Tyr- 
whitt, McLean, Calvin, Hodgins, Bennett, Wilson, 
Stubbs, Rosamond, Carscallen and Craig from Ontario, 
and Weldon from New Brunswick. Seven Liberals 
voted with the government, Angers, Beausoleil, De- 
lisle, Devlin, Fremont, Mclsaac, and Vaillincourt. On- 
tario went five to three against the bill, Quebec broke 
nearly even, the Maritime provinces three or four to one 
for it, while from all the West only Joseph Martin's 
vote went against the measure. 

The second reading passed, and the committee stage 
was entered. But it was already clear that the bill was 
doomed. The legal term of parliament ran only one 
month more ; it would be extraordinarily difficult for the 
government to jam the bill through and pass its esti- 
mates in that brief space, against a determined Opposi- 
tion and with its own ranks weakened. The govern- 
ment therefore made a belated attempt at a compro- 

477 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

mise. Already Sir Donald Smith on his own initiative 
had sounded out the Manitoba government. Now, 
three days after the vote, a delegation, consisting of 
Hon. A. R. Dickey, Minister of Justice, Hon. A. 
Desjardins, Minister of Militia, and Sir Donald Smith, 
was sent by the government to Winnipeg to seek a 
settlement by negotiation. Mr. Laurier was consulted ; 
he wished the mission well, and would interpose no ob- 
stacles to its success. Clifford Sifton and J. D. 
Cameron acted for the province. ; The atmosphere was 
not favourable; the earlier hurling of legal thunder- 
bolts, the government's action in pushing the bill 
through committee, despite a contrary understanding; 
the knowledge on both sides that the federal govern- 
ment could accept no settlement which the hierarchy 
would not endorse, made frank discussion difficult. 
While an earnest attempt was made to find common 
ground, and while each side made concessions, discus- 
sion only made it clear that neither could go far enough 
to meet the other. 

The federal authorities would have been content to 
forego a distinct system of separate schools provided 
that within the framework of the public schools a wide 
measure of autonomy could be granted, including pro- 
vision for a separate school-house or school-room in 
every district where there were twenty-five or more 
Roman Catholic children, Catholic teachers, Catholic 
representation on the advisory board, Catholic text- 
books, and a Catholic normal school for training 
teachers. The provincial representatives were willing 

478 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

to make concessions, in practice, as to representation 
and text-books, but they objected to the compulsory 
character of the separation proposed, and the financial 
burden and the lowering of efficiency it involved. 
They made two counter offers : either clean-cut seculari- 
zation or an agreement to limit religious exercises to the 
last half-hour of the day, when any clergyman or 
teacher of religion would be allowed to enter the school, 
in determined order, to give religious training to the 
children of his special flock. Neither offer was consid- 
ered, and early in April the conference failed. 

Sir Charles Tupper was not the man to give up with- 
out further effort. A determined attempt was made to 
jam the bill through. All other business was sus- 
pended. The House sat day and night. Relays of 
ministers and of back-benchers were organized to hold 
the fort. The effort was in vain. Tupper met his 
match. The North of Ireland insurgents in the Con- 
servative ranks, aided by a few Ontario Liberals, 
blocked progress. It was in vain that Tupper read this 
man and that out of the party; that only gave a re- 
spected New Brunswick stalwart, Richard Weldon, a 
chance long awaited to tell what he thought of the whole 
house of Tupper. It was in vain that for a hundred 
hours the House was held in session; Dr. Sproule read 
the Nova Scotia school law, John Charlton read the 
Bible passages prescribed in Ontario schools, Colonel 
Tyrwhitt went through Mark Twain and Bibaud's His- 
tory of Canada, always promising to come to the point, 
and barely a clause went through. And when the gov- 

479 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

eminent charged obstruction, the impeachment was vig- 
orously denied: had it not been the government which 
had delayed the bill? "Whose fault was it," added Mr. 
Laurier, who himself took no part in the obstruction, 
"that we did not meet until January second, that we 
found the cabinet divided into two factions, calling each 
other imbeciles and traitors, and that six weeks of this 
dying session elapsed before the bill was brought 
down?" 

On April 15 Sir Charles gave up the attempt to pass 
the bill. The estimates were voted, and on April 23 the 
sixth session of the seventh parliament of Canada came 
to a close. 

In the breathing space before elections, the govern- 
ment went through the promised reorganization. On 
May 1 Sir Charles Tupper became prime minister in 
form as well as fact, and Bowell and Daly disappeared. 
The Quebec section was varied, though not greatly 
strengthened, by the dropping of Sir A. Caron and 
J. A. Ouimet, the return of A. R. Angers, and the ad- 
dition of L. O. Taillon, head of the provincial ministry, 
and of J. J. Ross, whose Scotch name and French 
tongue bore witness to the assimilating effect of genera- 
tions of French mothers; on the whole, with Senator 
Desjardins, one of the framers of the "Programme 
Catholique," already in the cabinet, a distinctly ultra- 
montane group, well favoured by the clergy. Chap- 
leau, influenced by his old friend Tarte, resisted all pleas 
to rejoin, much to the disappointment of Tupper, who 
had counted on him as the only man who could make 

480 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

head against Laurier in Quebec. Less success was met 
in Ontario. It was in vain that portfolios were offered 
to William Meredith, to B. B. Osier, to Sir A. Kirkpat- 
rick; Sir Charles had to be content with a solid and 
respectable rank-and-filer, David Tisdale. The one ap- 
pointment which showed a touch of imagination was the 
selection of Sir John Macdonald's son, Hugh John, as 
Minister of the Interior ; it was fervently hoped that his 
name and his share of his father's genial humour and of 
his father's features would stand the cabinet in good 
stead; "the Conservative party," it was prophesied, "will 
win by a nose." 

The campaign was intensely fought. It was in 
large part a duel between Laurier and Tupper. Each 
had his strength ; each was bitterly attacked in the party 
strongholds. Sir Charles opened his campaign in 
Winnipeg itself, and found the good hearing his 
courage warranted, but in Tory Toronto he met jeers 
and taunts against the perpetual "I," the "I" who had 
made Canada, built the party, and now would unite it 
again. Laurier spoke again and again in Ontario, but 
the real brunt of the battle there was left to his vigorous 
band of lieutenants and to the Tory insurgents. An 
announcement that Sir Oliver Mowat would join the 
Laurier cabinet gave the cause respectability, though 
the effect was somewhat spoiled by Sir Oliver's canny 
reluctance to resign and take his chances in contesting 
an Ontario seat. m 

It was in Quebec that Laurier's main fight was 
waged. There he faced great odds. It was not merely 

481 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

that the federal and provincial machinery were in op- 
ponents' hands, nor that the party treasury was scant. x 
Immensely more serious was the crusade waged by the 
hierarchy. They more than carried out Father La- 
combe's warning. The collective mandement read in 
all the churches on May 17 was, it is true, comparatively 
mild and moderate in tone. It declared that while 
there was no intention to side with any political party, 
the school question was chiefly a religious question. No 
Catholic was permitted, let him be journalist, elector, 
candidate, or member, to have two codes of conduct, one 
for private and one for public life: "all Catholics should 
vote only for candidates who will personally and 
solemnly pledge themselves to vote in parliament in 
favour of the legislation giving to the Catholics of Mani- 
toba the school laws which were recognized as theirs 
by the Privy Council of England." 

But this mandement, which represented merely the 
greatest common denominator of episcopacy, was sup- 
plemented by much more vigorous utterances, partic- 
ularly in the eastern part of the province. Mgr. 
Marois, vicar-general, writing from the Archbishopric 
of Quebec, dotted the i's by stating that it would be a 
mortal sin not to obey the bishops, a grave and mortal 
fault to vote for a Laurier candidate. Mr. Laurier's 
doughty old opponent, Bishop Lafleche, was more 

l This lack was sufficient to deter a famous newspaper politician 
who offered his support if the Liberals would raise a campaign fund of 
$20,000 for the Montreal district, to match an equal contribution from 
himself, and being told that their whole federal fund was little greater, 
went away sorrowing over such impracticable innocence. Unfortunately, 
never until twenty years later was the Liberal party again so poor in purse. 

482 



THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

direct. Referring to Laurier's stand in his speech of 
March 3 he declared: 

This is the most categorical affirmation of the Liberalism 
condemned by the Church which has ever been made to my 
knowledge in any legislative assembly of our country. The 
man who speaks thus is a rationalist Liberal. He formulates 
a doctrine entirely opposed to the Catholic doctrine; that is 
to say, that a Catholic is not bound to be a Catholic in his 
public life. . . . Under the circumstances, a Catholic cannot 
under pain of sinning in a grave matter vote for the chief of 
a party who has formulated so publicly such an error. 

A number of Liberal candidates signed the mandement 
pledge, but even this flexible conduct availed them little; 
for double assurance, the weight of the clergy was 
thrown to their Conservative opponents. 

"Choose the bishops or Barrabas Laurier," a cure 
told his parishioners. The Conservative press de- 
nounced the Liberal leader as a traitor to his race and 
religion. Here and there a priest was found who stood 
out against the flood ; when a priest in Portneuf threat- 
ened his flock with the fate of a neighbouring commun- 
ity lately buried under a landslide, if they voted Liberal, 
the Liberals were able to take them to two priests who 
promised to administer the last rites of the Church if 
they fell ill. In Ontario, the bishops made no pro- 
nouncement, and so in the Maritime provinces, save for 
John Cameron, Bishop of Antigonish, who declared 
after a careful study of $ie Holy Gospel and the party 
platforms; "I am officially in a position to declare, and 
I hereby declare, that it is the plain conscientious duty 
of every Catholic elector to vote for the Conservative 



/ 



LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR WILFRID LAURIER 

candidate; and this declaration no Catholic in this dio- 
cese, be he priest or layman, has a right to dispute." 

Against these powerful forces, nowhere in the whole 
world more powerful than in Quebec, Wilfrid Laurier 
had two distinct assets. One was Israel Tarte's or- 
ganizing capacity. With all the passion of conviction, 
all the coolness of cynical experience, all the incon- 
venient knowledge of a former insider in Conservative 
ranks, Tarte directed the campaign without a tactical 
error. But the much more important asset was the 
pride Laurier's compatriots cherished in Quebec's 
greatest son. They had come to know him well; in the 
previous two years alone he had addressed between two 
and three hundred meetings in Quebec. They were 
impressed by his distinction, moved by his eloquence, 
roused by his courage. They could not believe it a 
mortal sin to make a French-Canadian prime minister. 
They were loyal sons of the Church, but they were also 
Canadiens, and free men. 

The polling on June 23 gave the Liberals decisive vic- 
tory. In Ontario they carried forty-four seats against 
forty-one for the government, seven falling to the Mc- 
Carthyites and Patrons; in the Maritime provinces 
they came nearly even; in the Territories and British 
Columbia they broke all precedent by winning six seats 
out of nine. But it was Manitoba and Quebec which 
afforded the chief surprise of the election. Manitoba, 
much less excited .during the contest than Ontario, gave 
four seats out of six to the government which was sup- 

484 






THE BREAK-UP OF THE ADMINISTRATION 

posed to be coercing it. The province on which the 
government had gambled, the province which was sup- 
posed to vote as the bishops nodded, gave sixteen seats 
to Charles Tupper and the bishops and forty-nine to 
Wilfrid Laurier. 



485 




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